Venezuela’s recent facade election makes the country’s recovery a great deal less likely and it strengthens dictator strongman Nicolas Maduro’s grasp on power. The election results were a foregone conclusion because the entire charade was overseen by Maduro’s cronies and the opposition led by rightful Venezuelan president, Juan Guaidó, boycotted the election because of its obvious deficiencies.
American foreign policy should not strengthen the hand of a ruthless dictator who lacks any semblance of legitimacy. Likewise, American foreign policy should not harm Americans or strip away their property rights in an attempt to help said ruthless dictator. This much should be obvious.
To many Americans, Venezuela’s problems and its slide into a socialist dictatorship seem like a theoretical plight thousands of miles from our shores. But the truth is — Venezuelan government-owned CITGO is a sizable oil company with significant operations within the U.S. Thus, as Venezuela’s problems have mounted, its troubles find their way to America.
The Biden transition team includes people who have a long history of being soft on the Venezuelan dictatorship and who have opposed actions by American creditors to collect debts they are justly owed from CITGO. It is important that the Trump Administration immediately take action to allow real and rightful creditors to be paid the debts they are owed by the Venezuelan government and CITGO.
The ongoing effort by mining company Crystallex to try and reclaim damages from the Venezuelan government illustrates this fact. In 2002, the company was awarded a contract to operate in the Las Cristinas region of Venezuela. They invested more than $500 million in infrastructure upgrades and social projects to benefit the local community. But in 2011, dictator Hugo Chavez seized the mine and stole Crystallex’s property after the company refused to pay bribes. Crystallex has since been granted compensation for this theft by the World Bank, and several U.S. federal courts. However, the Trump administration’s Treasury Department refuses to approve Crystallex’s claim and allow them to be repaid with CITGO’s assets. This inaction rewards a socialist dictator at the expense of a private business and property rights.
The bottom line is that until a true, democratic Venezuelan government is in place, Venezuela’s dictatorship shouldn’t be able to lock out American creditors from being paid the sums they are rightfully owed. This point is doubly true when one realizes that the repressive Maduro regime is all too happy to raid CITGO corporate assets in the U.S. to the detriment of Americans and also use them as way to generate cash that can be used to repress Venezuelans who seek freedom, democracy and a legitimate government.
Countless companies and investors are owed millions of dollars from the Venezuelan government for the crimes of expropriation committed under the brutal and dictatorial regimes of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro. As the current and illegitimate Venezuelan regime refuses to give these companies and investors their due, it makes no sense to do anything that would harm the property rights of American firms and citizens.
The rightful president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, has also asked that the United States prevent the current Venezuelan dictatorship from using the pretext of law to obtain their stolen dollars from CITGO. Guaidó hopes to get his nation back on a firm financial footing and he knows that allowing the current dictatorship to steal expropriated assets would only further endanger the future of Venezuela. So, it is clear that both the interests of the United States and the legitimate government of Venezuela strongly align and run parallel.
The Trump Administration should make it clear to Venezuela that the United States stands for property rights. Property rights promote economic stability, justice, and growth — all things that Venezuela desperately needs. Moreover, standing up for property rights will protect the interests of Americans who are owed money by CITGO. There is simply no good reason to allow Maduro to raid company coffers and leave investors with nothing to collect on their investments.