Merida, January 30, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaido named a number of “diplomatic representatives” to those countries which have recognised him during the past week.
Fellow high-profile opposition members Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio were designated as Guaido’s representatives before the Lima Group and Washington respectively. Both have been associated with violent attempts against the Maduro government in recent years, with Borges implicated by authorities in the August drone terrorist attack and Vecchio having fled charges including arson and instigation of violence in 2014. Elisa Trotta was stationed in Argentina, Orlando Viera in Canada, Humberto Berti in Colombia, and Rene de Sola in Ecuador.
Following the appointments, US Vice President Mike Pence held an hour-long meeting with Vecchio and Borges in Washington, after which another call for the Venezuelan armed forces to rebel the Maduro government was made.
Despite the naming of “diplomatic representatives” by the National Assembly president, the international skirmishes surrounding Guaido’s recognition as Venezuela’s head of state have continued.
New Zealand announced its refusal to go along with Australia and other western countries in recognising Guaido and reaffirmed it’s backing of President Maduro, while despite repeated appeals by the Venezuelan opposition, Pope Francis likewise refused to recognise the opposition leader, warning of his fears of “bloodshed.”
“I have been thinking a lot about the Venezuelan people to whom I feel particularly united these days [...] I ask the Lord to seek and find a fair and pacific solution to overcome this crisis,” the Pontiff stated from Panama. The Vatican was represented in Maduro’s January 10 inauguration and continues to have diplomatic relations with his government
Likewise, reports suggest that the European Union (EU) has failed to achieve a consensus to back Guaido, despite the key members of the UK, Germany and France all doing so.
Uruguayan President Tabare Vasquez revealed that EU Foreign Affairs High Representative Federica Mogherini called him Monday to discuss the possibility of Uruguay hosting an international dialogue summit to resolve the political crisis.
Uruguay’s El Pais newspaper reported that “According to the President, Mogherini told him that ‘it is certain’ that Europe will not have the necessary majority to recognise Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.”
Meanwhile, pressure is growing on Guaido in Venezuela, with the country's Supreme Court issuing a travel restriction on the National Assembly Deputy following a request from Attorney General Tarek William Saab, as well as ordering the freezing of his local bank accounts whilst an investigation continues into his recent actions.
The measures generated a vociferous response from the Trump administration Tuesday, who threatened “serious consequences” should either Guaido or any of their diplomatic staff be arrested.
We denounce the illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General's threats against President Juan Guaido. Let me reiterate - there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido.
— John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) January 29, 2019
World reactions to oil embargo
In other news, both Venezuelan and foreign authorities reacted angrily to the new sanctions announced by Washington Monday, which amount to an effective embargo on Venezuelan oil.
Speaking in Caracas, President Maduro promised an “equal” response from nationalised oil company PDVSA, describing the sanctions – which included the freezing of PDVSA’s US subsidiary CITGO by US authorities, the prohibition of transactions using bonds, and a general prohibition from engaging in transactions with PDVSA – as “daylight robbery.”
Venezuela’s Oil Minister and President of PDVSA Manuel Quevedo promised to take to international courts to overturn the sanctions.
“We are evaluating all options… we aren’t going to allow them to take our oil and steal our resources,” he explained. Washington “must be paying the devil in oil,” he added.
For their part, China and Russia, who have significant oil contracts with PDVSA, also reacted to Washington’s move, while internationally the price of oil remained steady.
Russia’s Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov described the restrictive measures as “illegal” and reinforced his government’s support for Caracas. CITGO was used as collateral for a loan deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft.
Chinese authorities also responded to the measures, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang claiming that they are “unilateral” and that his government “opposes them.”
"Historical experience has proved that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems… with sanctions leading to a deterioration of the people's livelihoods in Venezuela, and (those who imposed them) should be responsible for the serious consequences," he went on to state.
Prospect of military intervention opposed by friends and foes
To accompany the international diplomatic and economic pressure being exerted by US authorities on the Venezuelan government, rumours of a military intervention have captured the headlines.
US President Donald Trump has previously commented that “All options are on the table” when asked about such a possibility, and is also reported to have discussed the possibility of “invading” Venezuela last year.
Reinforcing such worries, the US Military High Command is due to visit Colombia this week, where they plan to discuss the Venezuelan border. The United States possesses seven military bases in Colombia, including three a short distance from its eastern border with Venezuela.
Despite encouragement by Republican figures such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Trump has been urged against such a direct intervention from within his own party, with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly warning that an invasion “could be problematic.”
Opposition to US sanctions and a possible military intervention have also come from some voices in the Democratic Party, with California Congressman Ro Khanna warning that US involvement could make “a bad situation even worse.” Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has likewise been vocal in stating that the Trump administration’s efforts “will only incite violence and further destabilize the region.”
In response to these threats, Venezuela has been holding military exercises, and President Maduro has ordered the creation of 50,000 popular defence units in the poor communities of the country within the so-called Bolivarian Militia.
International reaction to potential US military action is also unlikely to be favourable.
In a recent press conference, Peru’s Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio, speaking on behalf of the regional right wing Lima Group which is backing Guaido, explained that the countries which conform the bloc will not support military action against Caracas.
“As the Lima Group, we have said that we do not support any military intervention in Venezuela,” he said.
Russia has also voiced it’s rejection of any possible US-led military action in Venezuela, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov stating that it would be “extremely negative.”
“Regarding military intervention in third countries, we have said already that such imprudent action would have extremely negative consequences,” he said.
Peskov promised to “activate all possible international mechanisms” to defend Venezuela’s right to self-determination and sovereignty.
Finally, Spain's Foreign Minister Josep Borrell also made similar comments, claiming that “We are radically against any action of this type in Venezuela. Military intervention is a cursed expression in Latin America which takes us back to times which no one wants to return to.”