Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS
- The US has ramped up the political and rhetorical pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
- That has included sanctions and other measures aimed at ousting Maduro.
- National Security Advisor John Bolton also appears to be threatening Maduro with other consequences.
The Trump administration has ratcheted up the pressure on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in recent weeks, recognizing an opposition lawmaker as the country’s leader until new elections can be held and imposing more sanctions on the state oil company whose revenues have kept the country afloat.
Those diplomatic and financial maneuvers have been matched by rhetorical gamesmanship, led in large part by National Security Advisor John Bolton, a foreign-policy hawk who has advocated regime change in other countries in the past.
Bolton’s recent comments have encouraged Maduro and those around him to leave power, hinting at consequences if that doesn’t come to pass.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
"I wish Nicolas Maduro and his top advisors a long, quiet retirement, living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela. They should take advantage of President Guaido’s amnesty and move on. The sooner the better," Bolton said on Twitter on Thursday.
Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio show on Friday, Bolton said that military intervention in Venezuela by the US, Brazil, Colombia, "or some combination there," was not imminent, but he reiterated all options were on the table, even as the US’s objective was "a peaceful transfer of power."
Asked about a note he appeared with suggesting 5,000 US troops could be deployed to neighboring Colombia, Bolton laughed, reiterating that all options were on the table, "and going beyond that, I think, would be imprudent, as George H.W. Bush would say," he said.
Hewitt, a conservative commentator, asked Bolton about Maduro’s options to exit the country, saying, "Ceausescu and Mussolini met bad ends. Idi Amin and Baby Doc Duvalier did not. Is that the choice facing Maduro right now?"
Bolton referenced his tweet on Thursday, adding, "the sooner he takes advantage of that, the sooner he’s likely to have a nice, quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantanamo," referring to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, where the US has held suspected terrorists captured during the war on terror.
The US government has also warned Maduro and other members of his government about "looting" the country’s wealth, particularly in the wake of reports the Venezuelan government was planning to sell tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates.
"We’re also looking at cutting off other streams of revenue and assets for the Maduro mafia, and that certainly includes gold. And we’ve already taken some steps to neutralize gold that’s been out of the country used as collateral for bank loans," Bolton said Friday. The Bank of England previously blocked Venezuela’s efforts to remove more than a billion dollars of gold held there.
The US has also warned the Venezuelan government against "intimidation" of the opposition or of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader that the US and other governments have recognized as Venezuela’s interim president. Guaido has not been arrested, though Maduro’s government has launched investigations of him, and Guaido has said intelligence agents visited his home.
- Venezuela’s Maduro has been blacking out social media — and sometimes the whole internet — to stifle his US-backed opposition
- Bolton’s not-so-subtle note about sending 5,000 US troops to Colombia may have just been a bluff to spook Venezuela’s embattled Maduro
- Europe is trying to force Venezuela to hold new elections as its political crisis continues to spiral
Source: Business Insider