Maduro’s Second Six-Year Term Won’t Last Six Months

Jan. 16, 2019

This writer is happy to declare that his prediction (see Sources below) about Maduro’s longevity appears to be dead wrong. Washington has just issued credible threats that it will turn off Maduro’s cash flow by prohibiting exports of crude from his state-owned PdVSA oil company to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. 

Last Friday, this writer thought that Maduro could not only remain as Venezuela’s dictator for another six-year term, but for as long as he wished. Now his tenure is likely to be measured in months.

An unnamed White House official told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that, “until now, we have been going around the edges. Now, it’s a new dynamic: we are no longer going to be tinkering around the edges.”

Earlier the Journal pointed out that shipments of oil from his state-controlled oil company PdVSA to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries are the only thing keeping him alive: “Despite years of anti-U.S. rhetoric, Venezuela still ships about half of its oil production to the U.S. … [those] shipments to the U.S. are virtually the only source of cash for Caracas since much of the rest of its crude [exports] is used to repay debts with its strategic allies like China, Cuba, and Russia.”

That half of PdVSA’s production to U.S. refineries amounts to about 500,000 barrels of crude every day. At $50 a barrel, the financial lifeline that Maduro is depending upon is generating $25 million a day, or about $750 million a month. If Washington does indeed move ahead to cut off Maduro’s remaining cash flow, then Maduro’s presidency won’t be measured in years but in months. 

Forces are already in motion to replace him. Pompeo let the cat out of the bag on Saturday when he declared that “The Maduro regime is illegitimate and the United States will work diligently to restore a real democracy to that country.” He added that, “We are very hopeful we can be a force for good to allow the region to come together to deliver that.”

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Pompeo was no doubt referring obliquely to a new group formed for the primary purpose of replacing Maduro: Prosur. It would first of all replace the Marxist Unasur (Union of South American Nations) that Hugo Chavez set up 10 years ago, and then move in coordination with a number of those South American nations to replace Maduro. Colombia’s President Ivan Duque made that clear:

We’ve been advancing toward the end of Unasur and the creation of Prosur: a South American platform for the coordination of public policies, the defense of democracy, independent institutions, and market economies.

It is very important that (Unasur), which has been a supporter of the dictatorship of Venezuela, be shut down. 

Maduro’s opposition is already moving ahead with its plan. Brazil’s government issued a statement on Saturday saying that it recognized Juan Guaido, the head of the country’s legitimate National Assembly, as the country’s rightful president. Guaido said he would be glad to serve as an interim president until new elections could be held.

Until now, sanctions from the U.S. have served only to harden Maduro’s resistance. He has repeatedly called out the U.S. for promoting a military coup in conjunction with Colombia and other countries near Venezuela. Those sanctions have made it difficult for Maduro to arrange financing. He has lost stature and legitimacy among his neighbors and around the world as his policies have driven his once prosperous country into poverty and despair. He has seen his military commander decimate oil production from his oil company, PdVSA. He has watched as 10 percent of the population has left in order to find food and medical care. He has been forced to collateralize parts of the country’s oil reserves to China, Cuba, and Russia in exchange for a few billions to keep his faltering dictatorship afloat.

But now, if Washington does in fact pull his plug and prohibit exports to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, his tenure won’t last long.

And so, as an apology, what this writer wrote last week (“With the continuing lifeline of financial support flowing from Moscow, Beijing, and U.S. … refineries, [Maduro] will likely remain Venezuela’s dictator for as long as he wants”) he is happy to retract. 

In its place, he wishes to install this: when he departs from the present scene, the memory of Maduro’s madness will fade away like a bad dream upon awakening. Then the people of Venezuela can start breathing again, start enjoying the freedom they lost under Marxist dictators over the last 20 years, and, by taking advantage of the enormous petroleum reserves God has blessed their country with, can begin the job of restoring Venezuela to its rightful place as one of South America’s premier economic powerhouses.

That process can’t begin too soon. It might even begin in a few months.  


Sources:   How Long Will Venezuela’s Maduro Stay in Power?

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Considers Harshest Venezuela Sanctions Yet, on Oil

The Wall Street Journal: Venezuelan Leader Starts Second Term With Grim Outlook

Reuters: South America creating regional bloc to counter Venezuela: Colombia Pompeo calls Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro government ‘illegitimate’

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