venezuelanalysis.com | 23 January, 2017
US President Donald Trump’s designated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed his support for regime change in Venezuela last Friday in a written exchange with think tank Latin America Goes Global.
In the interview, which aims to gauge the new Trump administration’s prospective Latin American foreign policy, Tillerson states that he would seek to work with allied right-wing governments and organizations in the region to replace the “incompetent and dysfunctional” elected Chavista government of Nicolas Maduro.
“I would urge close cooperation with our friends in the hemisphere, particularly Venezuela’s neighbors Brazil and Colombia, as well as multilateral bodies such as the OAS, to seek a negotiated transition to democratic rule in Venezuela,” the former ExxonMobil CEO affirmed.
The US businessman, who previously lost a World Bank arbitration battle against the Venezuelan government over the nationalization of ExxonMobil assets, also suggested that the State Department would use its position at the Organization of American States (OAS) to push for political change in the South American country.
“We will continue to strongly support the efforts of OAS Secretary General Almagro in invoking the Inter-American Democratic Charter to promote the normalization of the situation in Venezuela and restore democratic institutions,” he added.
In other comments which have been taken as indicative that the incoming Trump administration will pursue a hardline stance with regards to Latin America, Tillerson revealed that he would pressure the Venezuelan government to “release all political prisoners,” including Harvard-educated lawyer Leopoldo Lopez. The founder of hard-right Popular Will party was sentenced to 13 years and nine months jail time in 2015 for leading violent protests against the government the previous year.
Nonetheless, Latin America Goes Global speculated that Tillerson’s policy towards Venezuela would not represent a “direct change in policy” from his predecessor, John Kerry. For his part, Tillerson confirmed that he would continue to enforce many of the initiatives developed under the Obama administration, including congressionally mandated sanctions against Venezuelan officials and the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Extension Act of 2016.
“The United States should continue to support legitimate dialogue to resolve the political crisis between the Maduro government and the opposition that now controls the National Assembly. We must continue to denounce the Maduro government’s undemocratic practices, call for the release of political prisoners, and enforce sanctions against Venezuelan human rights violators and narcotics traffickers,” he wrote.
The US oil executive also hinted that financial restructuring would swiftly follow a change in Venezuela’s government, which he said would “pave the way for the kinds of reforms needed to put Venezuela on the path to economic recovery”. He did not elaborate on the US’ prospective role in the restructuring of the Venezuelan economy in a regime change scenario.
Tillerson is expected to be confirmed as Trump’s new Secretary of State during a full Senate vote later this Monday.