Venezuela is a country awash in oil and natural beauty, a young and enterprising country, a country with boundless potential. Yet today, it is a hellhole being crushed by a ruthless dictator.
State socialism has once again proven to be a colossal failure. Private businesses have been looted by the criminal Maduro regime. Once profitable businesses lie in ruins, as the ruling party’s cronies are given jobs in state-run enterprises. Mismanagement is therefore a core principal of this regime, trickling down throughout the heavily centralized crooked system. When graft is ubiquitous, the people suffer. And the Venezuelan people are suffering.
The medical system has now completely collapsed with every public hospital in the country suffering from woeful shortages of medicine, anesthetic, and any semblance of hygienic equipment. Women are forced to give birth in the streets or in stairwells of hospitals. HIV drugs are almost non-existent. Diarrhea has once again become a serious killer of children across Venezuela.
In the meantime, the economy has completely imploded. Inflation is out of control. There is no food on the shelves, and basics like toilet paper are almost non-existent.
Crime is rampant. Violence is everywhere. Caracas is now the most dangerous city in the world in terms of homicides and violent attacks. It has overtaken both Kabul and Baghdad. We are facing a failed state right on our doorstep.
To make matters worse, any semblance of democracy has been stamped out by the regime. The socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro has undermined the opposition-led parliament at every turn. Most recently, he illegally and undemocratically created a new constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution, centralizing yet even more power in his—and his judges’—hands. Thousands of political prisoners are rotting in dungeons for standing up for their basic liberties.
All the while, Maduro’s inner circle is up to its neck in narcotics trafficking and terror peddling. His own vice president, already on the U.S. sanction list, is far too close to Mexican drug cartels as well as to Iran and Hezbollah senior operatives. Indeed, more sanctions must now be on the table. The U.S. cannot stand in silence while chaos reigns in South America.
Recent sanctions from the U.S. administration against Venezuelan officials involved in the creation and establishment of the new and illegitimate constituent assembly should be welcomed by all. The rigged constituent assembly vote, where many of the anti-fraud measures implemented in previous elections were non-existent, was a bad joke.
Likewise, broader financial sanctions are an important strategic shift, highlighting an understanding that this is not about individuals; the problem is the regime, it’s the system.
This is why we must hit the dictator, hit the regime, and hit the system, where it hurts: oil.
PDVSA, Venezuela’s oil company, should be declared immediately a criminal organization, an entity which is out of bounds. It has been widely used to launder money, help corrupt government officials amass fortunes, provide financial support for Iran and Cuba, and to conduct a host of shady activities with notorious narco kingpins (including the VP).
Sanctions on the oil industry may seem broad, but in fact, with Venezuela’s resources and power concentrated in the hands of the oppressive few, these sanctions will be targeting the criminal leaders. It will not hurt the Venezuelan people, as the people haven’t seen any benefit from PDVSA for years.
The vast majority of revenue from oil exports is stolen by government officials with only a tiny percentage ever contributing to the importation of food and medicine for the Venezuelan people.
It would also be wise to remember that the food and medicine that is purchased is distributed by Maduro’s cronies and the army. This ensures that it never makes its way to the average Venezuelan who needs it most.
Maduro’s gangs, and indeed the army, have spent the last five months killing and arresting pro-democracy protestors. They take food with one hand, and they take life with the other.
It is time to dismantle the system, restore democracy, and remove the dictator. Hitting the regime’s ability to funnel money through the U.S. financial system at the end of August was a good start. However, when currency dries up, people turn to gold. And in Venezuela, the gold is black. It’s time to target the oil, sanction PDVSA, and remove the final lifeline for this evil regime.