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The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a meeting today titled “Venezuela: Options for U.S. Policy” in which it discussed the crisis in Venezuela along with possible avenues for action that the U.S. government could take.

The meeting included testimony from three experts on Venezuela: Dr. David Smilde, a professor at Tulane University and Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America; Dr. Shannon O’Neil, the Nelson And David Rockefeller Senior Fellow For Latin America And Director Of The Civil Society, and The Honorable Mark Feierstein, a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The three experts provided their opinions on the Venezuelan crisis, and made suggestions on what steps the U.S. along with the rest of the international community could take to help find a solution to the deteriorating conditions in the country.

Dr. Smilde testified that “declining oil prices and disastrous mismanagement” had caused the country’s economy to “implode”, and summarized the Maduro regime’s role in the crisis as such:

In other words, Venezuelans are suffering from a government that has radically mismanaged their economy and society, and is blocking all democratic and constitutional efforts at change.

Dr. Smilde argued that the U.S government should not impose more sanctions on Venezuelan regime officials, because unilateral sanctions in general have vague goals and are often counterproductive because they actually serve to strengthen a regime’s rhetoric that it is being persecuted by the world’s sole superpower.

At the same time, Dr. Smilde made clear that “doing nothing is not an option”, and suggested that the U.S. government adopt policies that are clearly based on democratic values and that work directly to achieve “the reestablishment of electoral democracy and protection of human rights in Venezuela”. To this end, Dr. Smilde suggested that the U.S. government work to craft policies through regional diplomatic organizations, namely the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and the Union of South American Nations.

The other two experts concurred that the crisis in Venezuela was severe and overwhelming, and that the U.S. government should work through international organizations to take concise diplomatic action against the Maduro regime. However, both Dr. O’Neil and Feierstein argued that targeted sanctions against Venezuelan officials could play an important role in condemning the actions of the Maduro regime.

VP Warns of Regime Plan to End Party

National Assembly vice president and member of the Voluntad Popular (VP) opposition party Freddy Guevara denounced what he argues is the ongoing aggression the party is feeling from the Maduro regime, aggression he claims is bent on destroying the party.

Guevara said that vice president Tarek El Aissami and his Comando Anti-Golpe [Anti-Coup Command]—a security initiative created to neutralize threats against the regime—wants to eliminate VP by building a narrative that the party is full of “terrorists” and other criminals.

Guevara said:

They’re looking to accuse VP of conspiracy through the Anti-Coup Command. They accuse us of being drug traffickers and of laundering money, when in actuality they are the narcos.

Saab: Guarate to Receive Medical Care on Monday

People’s Defender Tarek WIlliam Saab announced today that Delson Guarate—a political prisoner and member of the VP party—will finally receive private medical care on Monday after he was diagnosed with lymphoma while in detention in January.

Saab also suggested that Guarate has already had access to doctors, since he is allegedly being detained at a military hospital in Caracas.

Guarate is the mayor of the Mario Briceño Iragorry in Aragua state. He was arrested on September 2 during a crackdown against opposition politicians on suspicion that he was plotting against the Maduro regime.

Guarate made headlines yesterday after a number of National Assembly deputies made comments to the media regarding his deteriorating health and alleged that the authorities were not providing him with the urgent medical care that her requires.

Tintori: No Word From Leopoldo In Eight Days

Lilian Tintori, the spouse of jailed VP leader Leopoldo Lopez, said today that no one outside of the Ramo Verde Military Prison in which her husband is being held has had any contact with him over the last eight days.

Through her Twitter account, Tintori claimed prison authorities were not allowing anyone—not even his lawyers—to visit him. One of Tintori’s messages reads:

Leopoldo is on lockdown. We’ve gone 8 days without contacting him. The dictatorship is not allowing his sons, his family to visit him. The dictatorship kidnapped Leopoldo Lopez, and is making his conditions worse in order to force a dialogue that has already failed.

Tintori’s reference to “a dialogue that has already failed” is likely in reference to her belief that the Maduro regime is using Lopez as a pawn to force the opposition to once again commit to talks with the PSUV. The most recent round of talks began in November of last year and ended in January after the PSUV failed to keep its promises, namely that it would release 71 of the country’s political prisoners.

Foreign Reserves Dip to $10.5 Billion

CNN Money reported yesterday that the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) has just $10.5 billion left in foreign reserves, putting the country dangerously close to default. The figure is down fro $30 billion in reserve in 2011, and $20 billion in 2015.

According to the same article, $7.7. billion of the remaining reserves are in gold.

Venezuela has $7.2 billion in debt payments to make this year, which puts the Maduro regime in the uncomfortable position of choosing to make the payments or and risk running out of savings, or fail to make at least some of the payments.


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