Venezuela’s government has spent at least $7.8 million on Washington lobbyists in an attempt to prop up its oil revenues since 2013 amidst the country’s deepening economic and humanitarian crisis, a report from the Miami Herald revealed.
The report, which analyzed Senate lobbying records, found that three Washington-based firms currently represent Venezuela in Washington, lobbying all branches of government on issues such as “fuel refining” and the “potential impact of U.S. energy policies on CITGO’s operation impacting U.S. consumers.”
Implicated lobbying firms include the likes of Avenue Strategies, Cornerstone Government Affairs, and VantageKnight, who also represent corporate interests such as Google and Citigroup and are staffed with some of the capital’s best-connected agents.
The lobbying effort is part of a response to sanctions placed on Venezuela championed in part by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) meant to punish the socialist government for a variety of human rights abuses.
In 2015, the Venezuelan government also took out a full-page ad in The New York Times accusing the Obama administration of “tyrannical” attempts to undermine its leadership.
“Never before in the history of our nations, has a president of the United States attempted to govern Venezuelans by decree,” the ad claimed in response to a series of sanctions placed on leading Venezuelan military officials. “It is a tyrannical and imperial order and it pushes us back into the darkest days of the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.”
Socialist president Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly accused American leaders, including Rubio and former vice-president Joe Biden of attempting to organize a coup d’état against him and has also blamed the ongoing crisis on “economic war” instigated by America.
Venezuela is suffering a worsening humanitarian crisis, where nearly two decades of socialist politics have triggered exponential inflation and mass shortages of basic resources such as food, medicine, and sanitary products. Over the weekend, Venezuelan currency hit a new low of approximately 8,700 Bolivares to the U.S. dollar, meaning their currency has lost 99.9 percent of its value since 2010.
Despite three minimum wage hikes over the course of 2017, the country’s minimum wage now stands at 97,531 bolivars a month, which holds a real market worth of $9.53. Combined with a government food stamp, the total minimum income rises to just under $25.
Furthermore, following the overwhelming rejection of Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro’s plans to create a government-controlled “constituent assembly,” President Donald Trump warned last week that America would “not stand by as Venezuela crumbles” and would impose “strong and swift economic actions” should the plan go ahead.