- The US has ramped up the political and rhetorical pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
- That has included sanctions and other measures aimed at ousting Maduro.
- The US national security adviser, John Bolton, also appears to be threatening Maduro with other consequences.
The Trump administration has ratcheted up the pressure on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in recent weeks, recognising an opposition lawmaker as the country’s leader until new elections can be held and imposing more sanctions on the state oil company whose revenue has kept the country afloat.
Those diplomatic and financial maneuvers have been matched by rhetorical gamesmanship, led in large part by the US national security adviser, John Bolton, a foreign-policy hawk who has advocated regime change in other countries in the past.
Bolton’s recent comments have urged Maduro and those around him to leave power, hinting at consequences if that doesn’t come to pass.
“I wish Nicolas Maduro and his top advisors a long, quiet retirement, living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela,” Bolton said on Twitter on Thursday. “They should take advantage of President Guaido’s amnesty and move on. The sooner the better.”
Appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio show on Friday, Bolton said that military intervention in Venezuela by the US, Brazil, Colombia, “or some combination thereof” was not imminent, but he reiterated that all options were on the table, even as the US’s objective was “a peaceful transfer of power.”
Asked about a note he appeared with suggesting 5,000 US troops could be deployed to neighbouring Colombia, Bolton laughed, reiterating that all options were on the table and that “going beyond that, I think, would be imprudent, as George H.W. Bush would say.”
Hewitt, a conservative commentator, asked Bolton about Maduro’s options to exit the country, saying: “Ceausescu and Mussolini met bad ends. Idi Amin and Baby Doc Duvalier did not. Is that the choice facing Maduro right now?”
Bolton mentioned his tweet Thursday, adding, “The sooner he takes advantage of that, the sooner he’s likely to have a nice, quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantánamo,” referring to the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay in eastern Cuba, where the US has held people suspected of terrorism offenses.
The US government has also warned Maduro and other members of his government about “looting” the country’s wealth, particularly in the wake of reports the Venezuelan government was planning to sell tons of gold to the United Arab Emirates.
“We’re also looking at cutting off other streams of revenue and assets for the Maduro mafia, and that certainly includes gold,” Bolton said Friday. “And we’ve already taken some steps to neutralise gold that’s been out of the country used as collateral for bank loans.” The Bank of England previously blocked Venezuela’s efforts to remove more than a billion dollars of gold held there.
The US has also warned the Venezuelan government against “intimidation” of the opposition or of Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader who the US and other governments have recognised as Venezuela’s interim president. Guaidó has not been arrested, though Maduro’s government has launched investigations of him, and Guaidó has said intelligence agents visited his home.