This past week, while the rest of the world looked elsewhere, one of the biggest thefts committed against any country in recent history took place. In one fell swoop, the Biden government greenlighted the plunder of several Venezuelan assets: US-based oil subsidiary CITGO, millions of dollars held in US bank accounts and a state-owned aircraft.
All these assets had been seized or frozen long ago but after recent (extraterritorial) US orders amidst the neverending aggression against Caracas, there is almost zero chance of the Venezuelan people ever getting them back. More blows to a besieged economy that will only increase the human toll already caused by years of a US-led blockade.
Perhaps the least surprising of the three is the Venezuelan hardline opposition regaining access to the country’s resources held in US bank accounts to finance its operations, which range from traveling to Washington to lobby for more sanctions to maintaining luxury lifestyles and the occasional Zoom meetings or electoral activities in middle-class neighborhoods. They call these actions “fighting for freedom and democracy.”
Recently, the US State Department gave the long-expired opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) access to $347 million in Venezuelan frozen funds. The Washington-backed troup had been temporarily cut off following the ousting of self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaidó in January. With the former US puppet fleeing to the United States, presumably with a nice bounty, is the turn for self-exiled Dinorah Figuera (she lives in Spain), and other unelected deputies to run the circus and reap the benefits. Never mind that their terms ended in January 2021 following the 2020 parliamentary vote that saw a Chavista-majority AN emerge.
The money —for the discretionary use of opposition politicians— was released by Washington without any hurdles, unlike the $3 billion that was agreed on at the Mexico dialogue table in November 2022 between the Nicolás Maduro government and the US-backed opposition. Those resources, which should be drawn from Venezuelan assets seized by Washington and allies to invest in urgent social needs, remain unavailable thus blocking Venezuelans to see improvements in their living conditions in the near future.
Yet, the narrative imposed by Washington is that Caracas has paralyzed the talks and that no sanctions relief is possible unless the dialogue resumes in order to schedule “free and democratic elections.” This was one of the conclusions from the recent summit held in Bogotá where some 20 countries, including the US, gathered to discuss Venezuela.
Hypocrisy is not a novelty in US foreign policy but it certainly continues to infuriate. The continuation of the dialogue process depends entirely on Washington and the opposition fulfilling their end of the bargain by releasing the $3 billion. More importantly, Venezuela does not need to establish an electoral schedule. Such a request is as unnecessary as it is deceitful because it seeks to position the false narrative that Venezuela is a dictatorship and that electoral processes are fraudulent.
Not only does the country have one of the most fraud-proof electoral systems in the world, certified by international observers including the Carter Center, but it has held presidential elections without any delays and in accordance with Venezuelan law since 1999 when the six-year term was established in the Constitution. Since then, Venezuelans have voted for president five times, reaffirming Hugo Chávez’s 1998 victory in 2000 (revalidated again in the 2004 recall referendum) and subsequent reelections in 2006 and 2012.
In President Maduro’s case, he was elected in 2013 after Chávez’s death and again in 2018. His term will end in January 2025 and new elections are set to take place in December 2024 (or sooner) as required by law. The “electoral schedule” is more than clear and there is a National Electoral Council in charge of such matters. Moreover, the current system is the same which led to the opposition’s victory in the 2015 parliamentary election and to grab several posts in regional votes. Fraud cannot happen only when you lose.
Nonetheless, Western hypocrisy knows no bounds. While demanding “electoral guarantees” and granting the opposition access to more stolen funds, Juan Guaidó has been paraded around Washington denouncing his “persecution.” The inconvenient reality is that he spent years in Venezuela as a free man despite trying to usurp the presidential post, leading several coup attempts and exploiting Venezuelan frozen resources abroad.
The level of impunity Guaidó has enjoyed has never been seen anywhere in the world, especially given his role in the looting of CITGO, the multi-billion-worth subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA that he and associates helped deliver to corporations after a failed and controversial legal representation before US and international courts.
Prior to its seizure and handover to the opposition in early 2019, CITGO brought in around $1 billion in yearly revenues to Venezuela and funded a social program for children with cancer. Now the profits have no clear destination and the company is set to be auctioned in 2024 on a court’s orders to benefit corporations that have long-standing debt claims against the Venezuelan state. Debts that Caracas has been blocked from paying or renegotiating because of US sanctions, and that would never have been tied to CITGO if not for the actions of the opposition.
Since 1986, CITGO, with its three refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Illinois and over 4,000 gas stations across the US, has been a lucrative oil export chain between Venezuela and the US. Right now, with high energy prices, its profits would be essential for Venezuela’s economic recovery after years of US-led economic war. The company might still have a chance to be saved, but only if the legal defense returns to Caracas to be carried out with sovereignty.
Finally, to round up the heist festival, the US Department of Justice has begun the process to seize a Boeing 747-300 cargo plane that belongs to Venezuela’s state-owned Emtrasur. The aircraft was illegally detained in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in June 2022, under the sole crime of previously belonging to Iran’s privately owned and US-sanctioned Mahan Air. The crew was released without any charges but the plane is still confiscated. Whether the Argentinian government will comply with US orders remains to be seen.
Three daylight robberies of Venezuelan assets in just a matter of days. A true example of imperialism that is just as disgusting as watching the coronation of Charles III in the United Kingdom.
It is clear by now that these thefts will keep happening, just as the narratives of Venezuela needing foreign tutelage to carry out elections will continue to be imposed over the truth. All of this begs the question: why are we still talking with an empire that only knows how to steal and lie?