The U.S. Department of the Treasury on Monday lifted sanctions on the export of gas to socialist Venezuela, a boon to the dictatorship in Caracas and its patron government in communist Cuba, which struggles to suppress mounting opposition and calls for the regime’s total abolition.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a general license number 40, permitting “all transactions and activities related to the exportation or reexportation, directly or indirectly, of liquefied petroleum gas to Venezuela” as well as the socialist regime’s state-owned affiliates, specifically rescinding restrictions that then-President Donald Trump imposed via three executive orders in 2018 and 2019. The license remains valid through July 8, 2022.
Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the state-owned company managing the nation’s (and some of the world’s) largest oil reserves, fell under socialist control in 1998, when Hugo Chávez nationalized the entity. With socialist cronies in charge, Venezuela’s oil production began to decline at a rapid rate, falling to levels not seen since 1947 by mid-2020. Despite abundant supply, the mismanagement is so great the nation routinely experiences severe gasoline shortages.
OFAC left intact sanctions on individual Venezuelan government officials, many of whom allegedly maintain ties with drug cartels, human trafficking organizations, or terrorist cells. Television star Diosdado Cabello, the first vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela PSUV) and Maduro’s second-in-command, has for years been identified as a major figure in the international drug trade, with informants naming him as the leader of the Cartel de los Soles. The group, run out of the Venezuelan military, operates an international cocaine ring.
Formerly the richest nation in Latin America – following the decline of previously richest nation Cuba under communism – due to its vast oil reserves, years of socialist mismanagement have driven the Venezuelan economy into the ground. Inflation in particular has annihilated citizens’ personal wealth and forced a majority of Venezuelans to eschew the local currency in favor of foreign bills will stable value.
A 2020 study revealed that a majority of transactions in Venezuela occurred using the U.S. dollar as a medium. The economy has deteriorated to the extent that citizens have resorted to scavenging food from street trash to avoid starvation. In lieu of stable healthcare infrastructure, Venezuelans have had to improvise means of tending to their sick and injured, with one viral video depicting locals using the back of a garbage truck as an ambulance.
The easing of economic restrictions against Caracas will likely provide an economic boost to the socialist dictatorship under Nicolás Maduro, which has maintained power illegally through the military since the expiration of his last legitimate term in 2019. By extension, Cuba — the regime’s de facto colonial overlord — will secure a much-needed economic windfall amid its struggles to contain both the Chinese coronavirus and a wave of democratic protests.
Havana has effectively run Venezuela for years. Maduro defectors and foreign relations experts have reported that the country relies heavily on nearly 100,000 Cuban communist agents to manage the national “revolution” since at least 2010. Reports further indicate that Cuba uses its colony as a staging ground for its drug trafficking operations and as a meeting place for its allied terrorist groups like the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization.
Caracas has further served as an economic lifeline for Havana, supplying much of the regime’s energy needs on credit, with extremely lenient terms. Director of Petroleum for Venezuela Francisco Rodríguez asserted in 2020 that Cuba owed over $11 billion to Venezuela, with a doubtful prospect for repayment.
Beginning Sunday, thousands of Cubans took to the streets of at least 20 cities, demanding an end to communism on the island. Originating in San Antonio de los Baños, protesters shouted “Down with communism!” and ” fuck Díaz-Canel!” referencing the nation’s puppet president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, whom Raúl Castro appointed to be the regime’s public face.
The “president” has since called for communists to violently confront the demonstrators and overseen a brutal police crackdown. As of Monday, at least 57 dissidents, including Roman Catholic priests, street artists, and peace activists have been confirmed to be in police custody.