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4 Jul, 2020 15:14

US-British sanctions and pressure are unlikely to destabilize President Maduro in Venezuela

US-British sanctions and pressure are unlikely to destabilize President Maduro in Venezuela

Increased international pressure on Maduro, with the UK ruling against his access to Venezuela’s gold bullion and with US efforts to hamper the arrival of Iranian oil, will not destabilize the president in the short term.

While the emboldened president of Venezuela has been stung by the recent court ruling in Britain, Nicolas Maduro is enjoying a position of strength at home. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido continues to lose popular support, with only 20 percent of Venezuelans polled believing that a change of government is possible. This is down from 63 percent 14 months ago.

Added to this, US mercenary Jordan Goudreau, who organized the failed coup attempt against Maduro, has admitted that the contract for the military intervention was signed off by two Guaido allies, implicating Guiado himself in having some knowledge of the plan.

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President Donald Trump may still back Guaido publicly, despite the Venezuelan politician's decline in importance, but US foreign policy under Trump has been inconsistent, and now he is more preoccupied with problems at home and the upcoming November election. 

Gold blocked

The Venezuelan government had requested the return of around a billion dollars of its gold bullion currently held by the Bank of England. However, Mr Justice Teare, a High Court judge, ruled on Thursday that the Maduro-supporting Banco Central de Venezuela was not entitled to make the request for the gold since the British government recognises Juan Guaido and not President Maduro as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

Communicating via Twitter after the judge’s announcement, Juan Guaido, who is believed to have taken refuge at a foreign embassy in Caracas said: “We have protected it from the claws of the dictatorship. Our gold reserves will remain as they are in England for its protection, the judicial process and its integrity. Gold protected from looting by the regime!” 

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Guiado is recognized by almost 60 countries as the interim constitutional president of Venezuela.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, a representative for Banco Central de Venezuela, immediately said that his clients will appeal and challenge the court ruling for “entirely ignoring the reality of the situation on the ground.”

Iranian oil and December elections

Representing another headache for President Maduro, prosecutors from the US Department of Justice filed a warrant on Thursday to seize four Iranian oil tankers heading to Venezuela. 

The planned US intervention against the oil tankers and the British ruling on Venezuelan gold appear to signify an increase in efforts aimed at toppling President Maduro, but he remains firmly in place with constitutional elections tabled for early December, in which he is widely expected to emerge victorious. 

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Juan Guaido and the opposition have declared that they will boycott the December elections, and while this may have a short-term impact in international and diplomatic circles, his reputation and authority have seen a significant decline since the failed international attempt at ousting President Maduro in March 2019. 

There do not appear to be any long-term options for Venezuela's opposition, since if President Trump loses the presidential election in November, Guaido will have to convince a new president that he can be the uniting force to bring about change, something he has failed to do over a prolonged period of time. However, if Trump wins the election, his unpredictable foreign policy decisions and wavering support will likely only contribute to less confidence in Guaido. 

The crippling US trade sanctions continue to harm the long-suffering Venezuelan public, depriving them of vital medicines and food, but have proven ineffective in removing President Maduro. 

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Under Trump, these sanctions will likely increase as he attempts to destabilize Maduro, but Iranian oil will continue to reach Venezuela, just as it did in May, as the shipping companies become more astute. As for the gold, this will remain in Britain, but should Guaido lose his political standing and retire as leader of the opposition, Maduro will have a legal standpoint from which to claim the bullion, as the undisputed president. 

Opposition impotence 

As the opposition seems unable to form a government under Juan Guaido or throw their full and unconditional support behind him, President Maduro can take advantage of this political impotence in the months leading up to December's elections, to secure a resounding victory.

With support from Russia, China and Cuba in addition to the unwavering backing of his military, it seems clear that Nicolas Maduro has proven his resilience and is not going anywhere in the short term. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.