Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro plans to proceed with a vote to create a new constituent assembly to replace the country’s opposition-controlled Congress with a friendly constituent assembly, potentially enabling the embattled despot to redraft the country’s constitution and officially marginalize his political opponents, despite the US’ repeated threats of “strong and swift economic action.”
In response to the US’ threats of sanctions, the country’s senior leadership have accused Sen. Marco Rubio and CIA Director Mike Pompeo of “conspiring to overthrow” the country’s floundering leftist government and replace it with a friendlier regime, according to the Miami Herald. The escalation belies the healthy business relationship between the two countries, which is centered on the US’ purchases of hundreds of thousands of barrels of Venezuelan oil a day.
“What this group is trying to do with Venezuela is basically divide the government, recognize other leaders and foment a conflict with the Venezuelans,” said Carlos Ron, the chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of Venezuela, to a small group of reporters in Washington on Tuesday. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Ron added that the American people are not hearing the full story and accused the US of unfairly attacking the country’s democratically elected government. Of course, opposition leaders are calling for protests at the country’s polling places to try and disrupt the July 30 vote, which is widely expected to be a sham.
Interim Ambassador to the Organization of American States Carmen Velasquez also criticized US threats of sweeping sanctions during a nearly two-hour discussion at the Venezuelan residency in Washington this week.
For his part, Rubio has warned of a “very strong response” from Trump if Venezuela goes through with the “fraudulent vote,” vowing to recommend that a host of other senior Venezuelan officials also face sanction.
“I hope every day this week the administration will take action to make clear that we’re not going to stand by and watch democracy be totally demolished by the Maduro regime,” Rubio said.
Pompeo recently admitted that the US would like to see regime change in Venezuela, the country with the largest oil reserves on earth.
During a Q&A at the Aspen Institute security forum, Pompeo “signaled CIA’s desire for a new government in Venezuela and acknowledged having conversations about the issue in Colombia and Mexico,” according to the Herald.
“Pompeo told the group the United States has a deep interest in a stable and democratic Venezuela and that he was ‘hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we, the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there.’
“‘I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue, trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world.’”
Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time Veneuelans have heard Rubio and Pompeo’s names mentioned in the same breath, as the Herald explains.
“Under questioning from Rubio during a May Senate hearing on worldwide security threats, Pompeo warned that large caches of weapons in Venezuela were at risk of falling into the wrong hands because of the turmoil.
‘It is a real threat,’ Pompeo said.”
While Ron and another Venezuelan official hurled insults and threats at the US during a meeting with reporters, the two government officials also hinted that there could be further talks between the two countries, saying that the lines of communication remain open.
Despite the accusations, Moncada and Ron left the door open for more discussions to avoid the sanctions. They said the two sides remain in communication, but that the United States needed to respect Venezuela’s sovereignty. Ron emphasized oil sanctions would not only hurt the Venezuelan government, but it would also hurt the Venezuelan people.
“We don’t want this conflict,” Ron said. “We don’t want this tension. What we want is a dialog, but with respect. Not with threats. Venezuela is not going to sit down together at a table under threat.”
As Venezuela’s citizens starve amid a worsening political and economic crisis that has led to hyperinflation and shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, Maduro’s approval rating has tumbled below 30% for the first time, a nadir his predecessor, the Latin American socialist icon Hugo Chavez, never reached. In addition to being unable to provide basic goods for their people, Maduro and his government of leftist thugs have allowed law and order in the country to deteriorate. In Caracas, mobs of angry citizens routinely lynch suspected criminals in the streets, and gangs of marauding bikers waylay trucks carrying commodities like sugar to market.