Now They've Done It!

 We’ll get to our Venezuela : Down The Rabbit Hole segment tomorrow but we have some important current news today so let’s get on with it.

 Last week we had a piece about a dozen US House of Representatives members sending a letter to the Biden administration asking for an assessment of conditions by which sanctions could further be relaxed against Venezuela due to the impact they supposedly have on the Venezuelan people, a claim we’ve debunked here numerous times, but I digress.

 Well, now we have Reuters reporting that Venezuela’s Comptroller General said in a letter that Maria Corina Machado is barred from holding public office for 15 years. It is an expansion of a previous one year ban placed on her because she supported sanctions against the Maduro regime and backed former opposition leader and “interim President”, Juan Guaido.

 The opposition has said for years that bans are used by the ruling party, PSUV (Nicolas Maduro), to prevent political change. Remember our favorite opposition political figure, Leopoldo Lopez? He was banned as well before the Chavistas threw him in prison.

 Ms Machado said that this shows the Maduro government is being defeated. The ban does not prevent Machado, who proposes privatizing PDVSA (Venezuela government-owned oil company) and restructuring Venezuela’s debt, from running in the opposition’s primary because it’s being held without state support but it does mean she cannot register with CNE (electoral council) to appear on the ballot for the 2024 presidential election (still not scheduled, by the way).

A US State Department spokesman said in a statement, “Today’s decision to disqualify Maria Corina Machado from participating in the electoral process deprives the Venezuelan people of basic political rights. Venezuelans deserve the right to select a candidate to participate in the presidential elections (2024) without interference.”

 Machado’s fellow primary candidate, Henrique Capriles, who has twice run for president and many people believe actually defeated Maduro in 2013 after the death of Hugo Chavez, was also barred from holding public office for 15 years in 2017.

 The OAS (Organization of American States) rejected the decision and called for free and transparent elections.”The regime resorts to disqualifications and proscriptions to cling to power and liquidate any likeness to democracy, while it deepens the political, social, humanitarian, and economic crisis.” the OAS said in a statement.

 OK, enough is enough! Now they’ve done it! When the Biden administration eased sanctions on the Maduro regime, specifically PDVSA, they issued a six-month license to Chevron to allow the export of Venezuela oil to the US through it’s joint ventures with PDVSA, through the US Treasury Department – OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control).

 The conditional license was to be reviewed after six months and a renewal would be contingent on the Maduro regime taking “concrete steps” toward free and fair elections, the restoration of democracy, and the rule of law. If the regime could not demonstrate they had taken these “concrete steps” the sanctions were to “snap back” and Chevron’s license would not be renewed and export of Venezuela oil to the US would be halted.

 It’s been six months and the Maduro regime has not taken these “concrete steps” and has, in fact, chosen to go the other way with the barring of Maria Corina Machado, the leading opposition candidate to face off against Nicolas Maduro in the 2024 presidential election, from holding public office.

 The sanctions should be immediately reimposed and that should include the sanctions against Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, who is now proposed to be in charge of replacing the members of the CNE that recently resigned.

 Maduro and the Chavistas, including his wife, cannot be rewarded for behavior contrary to the restoration of democracy in Venezuela. To Brazil’s President Lula and Argentina’s President Fernandez : “This is not a narrative, it’s a dictatorship!”

 Then we have the T&T Guardian reporting that the US Department of State said it is “certainly open to further conversations with Trinidad & Tobago” regarding their request for an amendment to the terms of the Dragon Field agreement wit Venezuela.

 Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Barbara Feinstein, confirmed that Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, will meet with the T&T Prime Minister, however, there are no separate sessions at the Caricom conference specifically scheduled to deal with Venezuela.

 T&T received a waiver from the US in January authorizing them to revive the long-dormant Dragon Natural Gas Field project along with some companies including PDVSA. The terms are similar to the waiver issued to Chevron, allowing for the export of Venezuelan oil but not allowing PDVSA to receive any cash, it’s for debt reduction only. T&T has not released any details regarding specifically how they would like to see the terms amended for the natural gas project.

 The question now is how will any talks about the project be affected by the Maduro regime’s decision to ban Maria Corina Machado from holding political office in Venezuela, effectively denying her a place on the ballot for the 2024 presidential election against Maduro.

 Since both this waiver and Chevron’s license are contingent on Venezuela taking “concrete steps” (Blinken’s own words) toward the restoration of democracy and free and fair elections in Venezuela, our stance is any advancement of this project should be suspended as well as Chevron’s export license until the Chavistas reverse course and allow Ms Machado, or whomever may win the opposition primary in October, to participate in the 2024 presidential election against Maduro, and if elected to subsequently hold public office.

 With Maduro not having an approval rating higher than 15% almost since the day he took power in 2013, the odds of him allowing a free and fair election are slim to none. The US must stand firm against the tyrannical dictatorship of Maduro and the Chavistas that is responsible for the starvation and death of so many people in Venezuela.

 More tomorrow….

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