Several simultaneous events with Venezuela at the epicenter illustrate the level of relevance of the oil country in the U.S. strategic approach on several fronts.
Recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited several countries in the region, three of them bordering Venezuela.
His visit to Suriname, Guyana, Brazil and Colombia had Venezuela at the center of the table, through the official’s harangues on security issues and the internal crisis. His statements aimed at dismantling the Chavism in power were not long in coming.
After the tour, Pompeo announced a new package of almost 348 million dollars of “humanitarian aid” that in theory would be destined to the Venezuelan people.
On the other hand, Mike Pence, the second man in the US Executive, recently held a telephone conversation with his key figure in the destabilization of Venezuela, Congressman Juan Guaidó.
“Excellent phone call today with Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó,” Pence wrote. “Under President Donald Trump, the United States supports President ‘Guaidó’ and the freedom-loving Venezuelan people, and will continue to support them until their ‘freedom’ is restored,” the Twitter posting said.
In another area, the US Treasury Department issued sanctions against several Venezuelan opposition politicians whom it accuses of having “facilitated efforts” to “manipulate” the parliamentary elections called for December 6.
In a statement, Steve Mnuchin’s office explained that those sanctioned are “key figures” in the plan to “put control of opposition parties in the hands of politicians affiliated with the Nicolas Maduro regime, undermining any credible challenge to that regime by the opposition.
Those sanctioned were Miguel Antonio José Ponente (PJ), Guillermo Antonio Luces (VP), José Bernabé Gutiérrez (AD) and Chaim Jose Bucaran (UNT). Basically, the measures of pressure against these anti-Chavistas fall by extension to the possibility that these sectors may join later, but in the end, join the coming elections.
The fact is that several leaders of the G4 parties (VP, AD, PJ and UNT), have run for office using cards from other small parties, once they have not had the formal support of their organizations of origin, as they have folded, amidst clear pressures, into an electoral boycott.
The publication and high diffusion of the report of “verification of facts” that several countries of the Lima Group raised within the UN Human Rights Council also took place a few days ago, it is worth saying, in a non-presential manner in Venezuela and in parallel to the reports that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the main multilateral entity has raised in Venezuela.
This report, plagued with falsehoods, was an input of new pressures that came from the Organization of American States (OAS), countries of the Lima Group and the members of the European Union (EU) Contact Group with Caracas, who intensified their rhetoric against the Venezuelan institutions and the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Simultaneously, Juan Guaidó broadcasted a video parallel to the UN General Assembly, in which, from his parallel “presidential” figure, he called in a nuanced but open way for an intervention of foreign forces in the country.
Although Guaidó’s request could not proceed before the UN and its Security Council because he was not recognized as president before these instances, his call consists in an indispensable requirement to legitimize new attacks against Venezuela, which implies that this action lies in the orchestration of the Americans, who clearly control the Venezuelan congressman.
The factors at play
In light of these events, which should not be understood in isolation, the US is maintaining clear pressure against Venezuela and this is explained by the link of events in the Caribbean nation with the electoral result in the state of Florida, a key state for Trump’s reelection in November.
Florida is a state called “pendulum” for going from a Democratic to a Republican candidate from one election to the next. But it is key because of its significant number of electoral colleges, some 27 in total.
Trump won Florida in 2016 with 45.3%, leading Clinton by 1.2%. This year he intends to consolidate his lead in this state, sustaining his leadership in the hardcore wing of Democrats and Republicans who are part of the Cuban and Venezuelan diasporas.
66% of Venezuelan-Americans in Florida would vote for Trump’s reelection against 34% who would vote for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, according to a poll released this Friday. The results of the opinion poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Lab of the University of North Florida (UNF).
The relevance of the Venezuelan vote, together with the Cuban vote, lies in the fact that they could place the balance in favor of Trump and expand his possibilities in that state.
Conquering this segment of the U.S. Latino vote is vital for Trump to advance the overall support of the Latino community, or at least part of it. This is with the understanding that, right now, Trump has several Democratic politicians and NGOs on his back who have set off a scandal targeting federal immigrant prisons in the U.S., where involuntary sterilizations are being performed on women detainees.
This issue is the main one referred to the Latino community and is incorporated in the final stretch of the campaign.
In the midst of his political campaign, Trump stopped on September 15 to address Latinos in Florida, stating that “interesting things will happen” in Venezuela. The Caribbean nation was in a privileged place in that speech, where he went so far as to compare a hypothetical “socialist” US in the hands of Biden with the Venezuela governed by Chavismo.
For many, it is not unreasonable to assume that Americans will pull the trigger against Venezuela, seeking the so-called “October surprise,” which are the typical US manufactured shocks to tip the electoral scales.
Venezuelans in the U.S. are closely following what is happening in Venezuela and the loosening or increasing U.S. pressures against the Venezuelan government. If they feel that the U.S. has given up on Caracas, they may withdraw support for Trump.
These perceptions lie at the heart of the Venezuelan election issue.
The cycle of crossroads and pressures on Venezuelan destinies depends largely on their development and outcome, but so does Trump’s own destiny, for his entrenchment in Florida lies largely in how diligent he has been in his intemperate actions against Chavismo and the Venezuelan people under blockade.
In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro is aiming at the realization of observed and monitored elections, which can be supported internationally.
While for the opposition, Juan Guaidó is leading the US supported electoral boycott.
The US agenda is to “invalidate” the Venezuelan elections and to continue Guaidó’s non-existent mandate. In this convergence, lies the question of whether or not the economic blockade and other severe suffocation operations now being carried out against Venezuela will continue.
However, there are also new movements and new possibilities, together with other factors. The Spanish media stated that the diplomat Josep Borrell, on behalf of the EU, has sent a mission to Caracas to, once again, arrange for the possibility of a European observation of the upcoming elections.
In this scenario, the EU would be proposing new electoral conditions and guarantees, and even a modification of the electoral periods. However, for Caracas, the only electoral date foreseen is December 6, and the possibilities that this will vary are unfathomable, even less so with the setbacks that have been evident in all sections of the dialogue and from the ambiguous positions of the Europeans.
This implies that the US pressures are not only against Caracas, since they also point to Brussels.
Recently the EU indicated that it would not observe the elections, declaring itself incompetent to organize a mission due to “lack of time”, even though there are three months left for the parliamentary elections.
After the parallel report in the UN Human Rights Council and through the position of the Contact Group, the Europeans would have strengthened their position of not participating.
However, this could change.