It’s April 18. The political climate is defined by a highly confrontational and warmongering tone of the Venezuelan opposition the day before a national sit-in (plantón) where, once again, violent acts were to be expected: destruction and confrontation with law enforcement.
President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech in the evening from Miraflores Presidential Palace. Along with Minister of Defense, General in Chief Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Vice President Tareck El Aissami and National Assembly member Diosdado Cabello announce the Zamora Plan to guarantee order and security in the country.
The decision was prompted after a U.S. State Department statement was released the same evening. The text openly supported the violence generated by clashes affiliated to the opposition agenda during the “plantón,” trying to intimidate key players of Venezuelan military and judicial institutions to allow these events so that they would avoid being the subject of incoming sanctions.
Among other important elements, the text pin pointed — without any evidence — the security apparatus, specifically the scientific police and the intelligence agency, of using torture and the state security forces to endorse the incursion of “collectives to repress the demonstrators.”
The anti-Chavista “planton” on April 19 left four people dead in different states of the country, including a sergeant of the National Guard in San Antonio de Los Altos, Miranda state.
Who is the head of the U.S. Department of State?
The current U.S. secretary of state — the foreign policy chief — is Rex Tillerson, a former general manager at ExxonMobil. Tillerson was the top manager of the company when former President Hugo Chavez made the decision to nationalize the Orinoco Oil Belt where the U.S. corporation had major projects.
Under Tillerson’s command, the U.S. company decided not to renegotiate its oil projects like the one belonging to Cerro Negro in Monagas with state-owned PDVSA, according to the new directives after nationalization. ExxonMobil sued PDVSA at the ICSID — the World Bank court to resolve investment disputes — seeking compensation in the amount of US$20 billion back in 2007.
After nearly a decade-long legal battle, reviews and appeals to various verdicts, on March 10, 2017, the ICSID decided that the lawsuit of ExxonMobil contained irregularities and freed PDVSA of paying any damages. The northern oil company suffered perhaps the biggest legal defeat of its history with this ruling in favor of the Venezuelan state.
Exxon Brand Politicians
ExxonMobil — as well as any other large international company from the United States — contracts politicians to exert influence within the structure of U.S. government according to their interests. So-called lobbying is legal in that country, and companies seeking to modify or pass laws for their benefit (tax exemption, removal of regulations, federal government subsidies, etc.) pay large sums of money to politicians (a large quantity of Republicans in the case of ExxonMobil) and lobby firms.
According to Open Secrets, in the 2016 cycle, the oil company invested financial resources to endorse more than a dozen politicians for these purposes. These included Donald Trump (current U.S. president, who appointed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state) with US$25,461, Marco Rubio with US$17,701 and Ed Royce with US$7,500.
Senator Marco Rubio from Florida and California Representative Ed Royce have not only introduced sanctions against Venezuela a key point in their legislative agenda, they have also met — on several occasions — with Venezuelan opposition leaders — such as Luis Florido, Lilian Tintori, Freddy Guevara, among others — to show them political support and diplomatic endorsement to the overthrowing agenda they lead on the ground.
Law S.3117: Financial support to Venezuelan opposition
According to Open Secrets, in 2016 ExxonMobil was one of the companies that paid (the website does not specify the amount) to lobby for the law S.3117 (Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs of the Law of Allocations of 2017), which establishes the funds and political objectives of the operations of the Department of State in key countries for the United States.
Money leaked to agencies such as the NED or USAID are based on that law. On May 3, 2017, under the leadership of Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (another politician financed by ExxonMobil in 2016 with US$14,025), the law was sanctioned.
According to the official page of the Congress of the USA, the sponsor of this bill was South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had the duty of lobbying for its execution according to the guidelines of its financiers.
The Senate report on the law highlights the importance of the U.S. State Department funding Venezuelan opposition groups (under the umbrella of “civil society” NGOs) with US$5,500,000 and other additional funds to bring political and economic reforms in Venezuela. At the same time, it stresses the importance that “regional organizations play in promoting reforms in Venezuela, in particular, the Organization of American States,” in addition to increasing the support of the Energy Security Initiative in the Caribbean to influence Negatively in the political and oil alliances of our country with the Caribbean.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on April 19: “We are closely watching what happens in that country and working with others, especially through the OAS, to communicate our concerns to them,” surely referring to Uruguayan Luis Almagro as liaison and key operator of the American strategy for pressure within the organization.
The Caribbean bloc has played a key role in preventing U.S. allies from that organization definitively consolidate the international isolation of Venezuela.
But the attack on Venezuela reveals a geopolitical key: The U.S. urgently need to overthrow Petrocaribe not only to break the Venezuela’s international alliances but to transform the Caribbean into a powerful port to import liquefied U.S. gas (ExxonMobil is one of the leading exporters), leading to the continent’s energy and geopolitical domination. The coup against Venezuela is a maneuver to ensure the continent as an area of exclusive influence on the penetration of Russian and Chinese capital and investment.
Graham, during Juan Manuel Santos’ official visit to the White House in May, publicly offered war weapons to Colombia both to dissuade Venezuela and to prepare the neighboring country for an eventual “humanitarian emergency” or armed conflict.
Interest in Venezuelan Oil
As discussed previously, ExxonMobil’s oil reserves have suffered large reductions as a result of sanctions against Russia and the aging of strategic wells in the Middle East, a reality that affects its market capitalization and its dominance over the oil market.
This urgency leads ExxonMobil to seek extralegal procedures to conquer the huge reserves of oil and gas located in the Essequibo using the Guyanese government, an area claimed by Venezuela as part of its territorial sovereignty at the U.N.
But without a doubt, the incessant search for oil and gas in that territory expresses the superior objective of re-colonizing the Orinoco Oil Belt, in the format of “oil opening” that dominated Venezuela during the last stage of the 20th century. Conquering and securing the world’s largest oil reserves as a source of full supply, in a context of aggressive competition between oil companies and their geopolitical interests, is an increasingly urgent need the U.S. oil company wants to satisfy.
The crystallization of regime change is needed. Last month, sn important group of experts from the think tank Council of Foreign Relations elaborated a set of recommendations to the U.S. government within the framework of this purpose.
In short, the viable options for a change of government in Venezuela proposed by the CFR (which has shaped U.S. foreign policy since the beginning of the 20th century) are to increase sanctions against key Chavista leaders, to push diplomatically from the OAS using neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil, and to demand that China and Russia withdraw their support of the Venezuelan government to intensify isolation.
The Trump Administration has fulfilled the vast majority of the CFR proposals as political routes to support the coup d’état agenda in Venezuela. The sanctions against the Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, the State Department’s pressures from the OAS and the latest sanctions against the Supreme Court are a sign of this commitment, or at least that the CFR does indeed influence certain decisions of the White House. The CFR is also funded by ExxonMobil.
Threat of sanctions against PDVSA
On Sunday, June 4, Reuters leaked comments from alleged White House officials regarding sanctions being assessed against the national oil sector.
According to Reuters, collaborators of President Donald Trump have been asked to present recommendations to sanction the Venezuelan oil sector “if necessary.”
Given that 95 percent of Venezuela’s foreign exchange earnings come from PDVSA, vital resources for the payment of foreign debt and imports of food and medicines, a possible oil embargo or, in its absence, sanctions that prevent oil exports to the U.S. and investment of foreign companies (threatened with suspension of licenses to operate in U.S. territory), would be a strong blow to the economic recovery plan of the Venezuelan government and the population at large by paralyzing an important income source.
A measure that could be politically costly to the U.S. (striving to convince the public that all efforts are for the well-being of the Venezuelan population) and a reversal of its effects in practice in the medium term, considering most likely oil sales to China or India would increase significantly, at the moment 60 percent of PDVSA’s export destinations.
It is not by chance that these threats are leaked when the Venezuelan opposition’s capacity for mobilization is showing signs of burning out, street violence hasn’t been capitalized into political victories inside the country or before the international community. If this cycle of political recession increases, ExxonMobil would be pressured to take action on its own. After all, they are the owners of the circus and have invested resources that they do not intend to waste.
Closing (in progress)
According to a report by The Daily Beast in early April, top executives of ExxonMobil and Shell met in Washington in the hope that Nicolas Maduro would step down to start privatization projects of the world’s largest oil reserves. It is possible that Reuter’s leak has relation to these meetings and the decisions that would have been taken there.
The coup d’etat against Venezuela was not decided by the Venezuelan opposition but by the largest oil company on the planet; the framework of action of someone like Freddy Guevara or Julio Borges is limited to their condition of subordinates. If intervention by delegation fails, direct intervention (on an economic and financial scale) using positions of power and spheres of influence in the U.S. government, are even less visible.
The oil company, which truly executes the bulk of the maneuvers, has the U.S. secretary of state, a portfolio of right-wing representatives and senators — including Donald Trump — with influence in Congress and lobbying firms to impose its political and economic interests as a U.S. foreign policy against Venezuela.
In Venezuela, not only political power is disputed, but the organization of a new political, financial and energy geography on a continental and planetary scale, within highly belligerent political environment. The fall of Venezuela, for ExxonMobil, is fundamental for that disputed center of geopolitical gravity to distance itself from Russia and China, taking control in a region with the greatest natural and energetic resources of the planet.
Determining who the adversary is is key to understanding what we are currently facing.
This article was originally published in Mision Verdad. William Serafino is a Venezuelan journalist.