US turns screws on Venezuela

Lesotho Times - - International -

CARA­CAS — He thun­ders about con­spir­a­cies and as­sas­si­na­tion plots. He says that he sleeps with both eyes open. Few Venezue­lans even know where he lives.

But no mat­ter the dan­gers, Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro says that no one will scare him, fool him or di­vert him from car­ry­ing out the mission that the “eter­nal Com­man­der Chávez” has given him “un­til the end of the end of the roads, now and for­ever”.

Mr Maduro came into of­fice seek­ing to im­i­tate his charis­matic pre­de­ces­sor and men­tor, Hugo Chávez, in nearly ev­ery way: the way he talked, the way he dressed and in his ful­mi­na­tions against Amer­i­can im­pe­ri­al­ism.

But now, two years af­ter the death of Mr Chávez, with his coun­try sink­ing deeper into an eco­nomic cri­sis, what was once Mr Maduro’s great­est ad­van­tage — his ab­so­lute loy­alty to the for­mer leader — may have be­come his great­est hand­i­cap.

“The gov­ern­ment in­ac­tion, the in­er­tia, comes from a be­lief that you find in Ni­colás Maduro and his gov­ern­ment about de­fend­ing Chávez’s le­gacy, as if noth­ing that Chávez left can be touched, noth­ing can be changed or cor­rected be­cause that would be con­sid­ered a be­trayal,” said Vic­tor Ál­varez, a left­ist econ­o­mist and for­mer gov­ern­ment min­is­ter un­der Mr Chávez.

Well be­fore Mr Chávez’s death on 5 March 2013, it be­came clear that many of his poli­cies needed to be re­vised or even dis­carded to set the na­tion’s econ­omy on the right track, Mr Ál­varez said.

But wary of break­ing from his men­tor’s course, Mr Maduro, who re­peats Mr Chávez’s name like a mantra and calls him­self the son of Chávez, has dou­bled down on the same poli­cies, which econ­o­mists say ex­ile with threats to have them ar­rested. But op­po­si­tion lead­ers say that be­ing po­lit­i­cally ac­tive is much riskier to­day.

“Maduro’s prob­lem is that he does not project lead­er­ship, so he has to make up for it by try­ing to look strong,” said Stalin González, an op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tor. “Peo­ple laugh at him; they don’t take him se­ri­ously. It’s like a bully at school.

“They laugh at him, and he re­sorts to vi­o­lence so that they will re­spect him.”

The United States de­clared Venezuela a na­tional se­cu­rity threat on Mon­day and or­dered sanc­tions against seven of­fi­cials from the oil­rich coun­try in the worst bi­lat­eral diplo­matic dis­pute since so­cial­ist Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro took of­fice in 2013.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed and is­sued the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, which se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said did not tar­get Venezuela’s en­ergy sec­tor or broader econ­omy.

But the move stokes ten­sions be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Cara­cas just as US re­la­tions with Cuba, a long­time US foe in Latin Amer­ica and key ally to Venezuela, are set to be nor­mal­ized.

Mr Maduro de­nounced the sanc­tions as an at­tempt to top­ple his gov­ern­ment. At the end of a thun­der­ing two-hour speech, Mr Maduro said he would seek de­cree pow­ers to counter the “im­pe­ri­al­ist” threat, and ap­pointed one of the sanc­tioned of­fi­cials as the new in­te­rior min­is­ter.

Declar­ing any coun­try a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity is the first step in start­ing a US sanc­tions pro­gram. The same process has been fol­lowed with coun­tries such as Iran and Syria, US of­fi­cials said.

— NY Times- Reuters

Pres­i­dent ni­colás Maduro of Venezuela (cen­tre) at a mil­i­tary pa­rade in Fe­bru­ary mark­ing the 23rd an­niver­sary of a failed coup.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.