Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Drums Of War, Con't

Now that former Reagan/Bush-era war criminal Elliott Abrams has settled into his role as Trump's special envoy to Venezuela, the march towards US military action in Caracas can begin in earnest.  For now, the talk is of economic sanctions and negotiated solutions, which won't last too much longer. 

There are no signs that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is open to negotiations to end the political impasse with opposition leader Juan Guaido, Washington’s envoy for Venezuela said.

Elliott Abrams, who served in the administrations of both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, said any negotiated solution would need to be reached among Venezuelans, and that the United States could help by lifting or easing U.S. sanctions and travel restrictions once Maduro agreed to go.

Abrams, however, played down any possibility that the Venezuelan president was ready to talk about his exit. “From everything we have seen, Maduro’s tactic is to stay put,” Abrams said in an interview on Friday.

Some 56 countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s interim head of state, but Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Abrams has met with Russian representatives to the United States about Moscow’s support for Maduro. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this month, after a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that Moscow was ready to take part in bilateral talks on Venezuela.

“The Russians are not happy with Maduro for all the obvious reasons,” Abrams said. “In a couple of conversations I have been told they have given advice to Maduro and he doesn’t take it.”

“They continue to support him and there is no indication that I have seen that they are telling him it’s time to bring this to an end,” he said, adding: “There could come a point where the Russians reach a conclusion that the regime is really unsalvageable.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The reality is that Maduro owes the Russians more than $17 billion and they want that money back, or they will leave him to the tender graces of their pet American thug.  The wild card here is the Chinese however.  They are backing Maduro for now, for their own reasons...but mostly they invested in Venezuelan oil under Chavez and want their payoff too.

Even as Venezuela’s political crisis entered its latest stage last month, a combination of calculations continued to drive China’s reluctance to join calls for political change — or even to openly acknowledge that the China-Venezuela relationship is in troubled waters. China’s official response to U.S. and other international recognition of Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader has emphasized China’s long-standing noninterference foreign policy principle.

And it’s likely that China continues to hope its financial and diplomatic support for Venezuela ultimately will pave the way for future oil-based trade and investment opportunities. By sitting on the fence as the United States and Russia trade barbs over the future of Venezuela’s political leadership, China may be hoping that its efforts to appear a pragmatic partner to Caracas will pay off with greater future access to Venezuela’s oil reserves. For China to portray its long financial and political support for Chávez and Maduro as purely practical rather than also ideological will probably be easier said than done in a country as polarized as Venezuela.

Should Beijing's pragmatism mean that Maduro needs to be out of the picture, I'm betting China will look the other way too, especially if it means the US does all the heavy lifting to put Guaido in place.

Meanwhile the NY Times finally noticed that the Trump regime's claim that Maduro forces burned a humanitarian aid convoy was complete bullshit.

The narrative seemed to fit Venezuela’s authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.

Vice President Mike Pence wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced”as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

Unpublished footage obtained by The New York Times and previously released tapes — including footage released by the Colombian government, which has blamed Mr. Maduro for the fire — allowed for a reconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze

At one point, a homemade bomb made from a bottle is hurled toward the police, who were blocking a bridge connecting Colombia and Venezuela to prevent the aid trucks from getting through.

But the rag used to light the Molotov cocktail separates from the bottle, flying toward the aid truck instead.

Half a minute later, that truck is in flames.

The same protester can be seen 20 minutes earlier, in a different video, hitting another truck with a Molotov cocktail, without setting it on fire.

Ask yourselves why the Trump regime wants regime change in Caracas so badly, and why they are trying to do everything in their power to have a ready-made excuse to send in US troops to do it.

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