Venezuela under socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro has become a one-stop shop for grand corruption, money laundering, drug trafficking and terrorism in Latin America. Now, with little else to offer, Maduro is giving away access to the country’s ample gold and oil reserves on the cheap.
Maduro’s relationships with terrorist entities like FARC, ELN, and Hezbollah and rogue states like Russia and North Korea represent a clear and present danger to neighboring countries and a threat to peace and security in the region and the world.
Maduro’s regime is a proxy failed state backed up by an international coalition of anti-democratic bad actors who benefit from his desperation. Throughout the past year, with Venezuela’s economic, healthcare, and political institutions in complete decay, Maduro has opened a fire sale to combat his international isolation and to circumvent U.S. sanctions on gold, liquidating assets to finance his cruel dictatorship.
Maduro visited Putin this month and came back largely empty-handed – at least publicly. While neither side has publicized details of agreements made between the two countries in Moscow, Russia recently announced the establishment of a military base on Venezuela’s La Orchila island, a violation of the Venezuelan Constitution.
The news followed a Russian air force exercise featuring nuclear-capable bombers, which landed outside Caracas before returning home. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the Russian government for sending “bombers halfway around the world” to Venezuela, lamenting the move as “two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer.”
#Russia's government has sent bombers halfway around the world to #Venezuela. The Russian and Venezuelan people should see this for what it is: two corrupt governments squandering public funds, and squelching liberty and freedom while their people suffer. pic.twitter.com/bCBGbGtaHT
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 11, 2018
Putin is far from the only leader Maduro has courted. Maduro received Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Caracas following the latter’s visit to South America for the G-20 Summit. Turkey received at least $779 million in Venezuelan gold exports during the first half of this year alone. Maduro, in return, got a reservation at one of Turkey’s swankiest restaurants.
Maduro’s ongoing alliance with Iran may also pay off militarily. Deputy Commander of the Iranian navy, Rear Admiral Touraj Hassani Moqaddam, announced in October that Iran may deploy new-generation warships to Venezuelan waters, including the new Sahand destroyer which can carry helicopters, fire torpedoes, and shoot down airplanes.
Venezuela’s largest creditor, China, was also not left behind. In Beijing, Maduro obtained another $5-billion-dollar hunger loan. Venezuela has boosted arrears of $6.1 billion to bondholders and creditors have sued Venezuela for billions in unpaid bonds.
The world seems to be watching. G20 countries Canada, Australia, Argentina, Mexico, Chile, and the U.S. have repudiated last May’s sham elections and led a strong effort to impose sanctions. Venezuelan assets such as gold worth $550 million (14 tons) remain trapped in the Bank of England, where public pressure is urging the bank to keep the money from reaching Maduro.
In Brazil, President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who takes office in January, has shown public support for the Venezuelan opposition and rejected the “despicable and murderous ideology” Maduro represents. Last year, Bolsonaro vowed to “do whatever is possible to see that government deposed.” Bolsonaro’s elected vice president has pledged to deploy the first peacekeeping mission to the oppressed Venezuelan people once the Maduro’s dictatorship is overthrown.
Maduro’s illegitimate regime is a clear threat to peace and security in the region generally. The strong diplomatic and commercial interests of anti-American nations such as Cuba and Iran, the shady interests of Russia, China, and Turkey, and the fact that Venezuela possesses uranium, coltan, and thorium clearly represent a risk to the United States in particular.
Isaias Medina III, Edward S. Mason fellow MPA/MLD candidate at Harvard University, is an international lawyer, humanitarian activist, counter-terrorism expert, former Venezuelan UN Diplomat at the Security Council. He publicly resigned to protest Human Rights violations and denounced more than 20 top officials including Maduro to the ICC, serving as a witness to the OAS. He is a strong advocate of the International Anticorruption Court.