United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke at length today on the Venezuela crisis at an event at the University of Texas, just days before leaving on a diplomatic tour of Latin America.
During his speech, Tillerson said that while the White House was not advocating for regime change in Venezuela, the “easiest” solution to the crisis in the country was for Maduro to leave power peacefully and under his own accord.
In an apparently off-the-cuff remark, Tillerson floated the possibility that the Venezuelan military might overthrow Maduro. It is not clear from Tillerson’s comments that he has any inside information regarding the possibility of that scenario. Tillerson said:
When things are so bad that the military leadership realizes that it just can’t serve the citizens anymore, they will manage a peaceful transition (…) Whether that will be the case here or not, I do not know.
Tillerson also said that Maduro should simply “get back to his constitution and follow it”, and that he should accept electoral defeat in a free and fair election. In that case, Tillerson mused, Maduro might be wise to take the opportunity to bow out peacefully:
Then, if the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I am sure that he got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he could have a nice life over there.
The former head of oil giant ExxonMobil, Tillerson is one of the longest serving members of a disastrous Trump cabinet. In October of last year, it was widely reported that TIllerson had expressed frustration at working in the Trump administration, going as far as to call Trump a “fucking moron”.
Regime Bans Prominent Politician from Running for Office
The Maduro regime banned prominent political figure Miguel Rodriguez Torres from running for office for a period of 12 months effective immediately, continuing a tried-and-tested tactic of eliminating political opponents. The order came from the Comptroller General of the Republic, and eliminates Torres from running for president.
While Torres had not formally announced his candidacy for president, he was an obvious contender for the title. Torres appeared poised to make an official announcement on the matter just two three days ago, when he said in an interview that it was imperative that Maduro be voted out of office in the upcoming presidential election.
Torres has the unfortunate distinction of being the first chavista to be banned from holding office by Maduro. Torres was a lifelong ally of Hugo Chavez, having fought by his side in the 1992 failed coup d’etat attempt. Once Chavez came to power in 1999, Torres served in a number of high-profile cabinet positions, including as the head of the National Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), Venezuela’s political police. Most recently, Torres served as Minister of the Interior from 2013-2014.
Following his departure from the Maduro cabinet, Torres has become a leading dissident voice within chavismo, and has attempted to distance Maduro’s disastrous tenure as president of Venezuela from Hugo Chavez’s legacy.
Torres joins a long list of opposition figures who have been banned by the regime from holding office, including Leopoldo Lopez, Henrique Capriles, Antonio Ledezma, Freddy Guevara, and David Smolansky.
Colombia Set to Announce New Measures to Cope with Venezuelan Migrants
Bogota is set to announce a new set of measures meant to help the country deal with an influx of Venezuelan migrants who have left the country seeking to escape misery and persecution. The measures will be announced by president Juan Manuel Santos at an event in Cucuta on February 8.
Cucuta is located on the border with Venezuela, and appears to be bearing the brunt of Venezuelan migration into Colombia.
According to the Colombian government, there are at least half a million Venezuelans in Colombia today, and the number of migrants increased 110% in 2017 from 2016.
Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Maria Angela Holguin stopped short of calling Venezuelan migration into Colombia “massive”, but did say that the increased numbers are putting a strain on border cities. Holguin said:
I wouldn’t say that the migration is massive because the numbers aren’t enough to say that it’s massive, but [the number] of migrants does make the situation in certain cities more complex.
Last week, authorities in Cucuta began displacing Venezuelans living in a makeshift camp that they’d set up in a sports complex and a bus terminal in the city. In the process, more than 800 Venezuelan migrants were removed from the premises.
UK Set to Place Sanctions on Maduro Regime
The government of the United Kingdom will prohibit all of its citizens from engaging in a broad range of business with the Maduro regime starting on February 26.
According to a government document released earlier today, the sanctions will prohibit UK persons from providing “technical assistance, brokering services and other goods and services” related to military and state security matters. The sanctions seem to be aimed at weakening the Maduro regime’s arsenal of repression.
The prohibition–which applies to all UK citizens either inside or outside the territory–carries penalties for circumvention that include up to two years in prison.
Diosdado Cabello Meets North Korean Ambassador in Caracas
PSUV vice president Diosdado Cabello met today with the North Korean ambassador in Caracas. Cabello presented the ambassador with a small statue of Hugo Chavez.
Below, two images tweeted by Cabello commemorating the meeting along with my translation of his tweet:
Meeting today with his excellency of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, Ri Sung Gil, improving friendly relations
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