Venezuelan government is at its wit’s end. After President Obama issued an executive order banning seven Venezuelan officials from traveling to the U.S. and freezing their assets, it wouldn’t be long before the South American nation fired back in what appears to be the region’s newest Cold War-reminiscent row.
Venezuela’s National Assembly approved President Nicolas Maduro’s request Sunday to govern by decree for a second time since taking office in 2013. The ruling grants the president special expanded authority outside of executive powers. Maduro called it a push to fight imperialism.
He called it his “Anti-Imperialist Law.”
Maduro has been accusing Washington of orchestrating a coup and an economic war—something U.S. officials deny in strong terms. To “get back” at America he ordered most U.S. diplomats out of Caracas and has decided that all American travelers will have to request a visa.
“What we are seeing here, is the intent with impunity to attempt against Venezuela’s richness,” exclaimed Tanía Díaz, vice president of the National Assembly, on national TV. “It is Mr. Obama’s intention, along with his secretaries, to commercially restrict Venezuela’s wealth, to wage a commercial blockade, an economic blockade silently with impunity.”
Members of the opposition criticized the move, calling it a “distraction to take over what’s left of democracy.”
During his first decree, approved in November 2013 just seven months after taking office, Maduro issued 50 executive orders that increased state control of the economy, promoted social welfare programs and strengthened anti-corruption legislation.
But Venezuela is at a tipping point. In just less than two years since Maduro took office, the inflation rate has skyrocketed to 63.6 percent—the highest in the world, surpassing even war-torn Ukraine. The economy went into recession even before petroleum prices started plummeting.
Two waves of protests around the country left dozens dead and more wounded, and led to the imprisonment of notorious political leaders. And that isn’t even taking into account the rampant scarcity of basic staple foods comparable to countries in the midst of civil wars—let alone that Transparency International ranked it the most corrupt country in the region.
Maduro continues to blame it all on the CIA, to no avail.
For now, it seems that Washington may be winning the game of isolation and letting Venezuela seal its own fate with a slew of haphazard moves.
After all, President Obama’s historic decision to put an end to historic hostilities between Cuba and the U.S. isolated the South American oil giant from Maduro’s biggest crony. President Raul Castro and Co. aren’t too keen on sabotaging an important rapprochement over a little oil—especially when they are so close to getting off the state sponsor of terror list, among other issues currently discussed in talks. It’s also alienated other left-leaning countries in the region, subduing many criticisms against the U.S months before the much-awaited Summit of the Americas next month in Panama.
“I’ll add that it’s unfortunate that during a time when we’ve opened up engagement with every other nation in the Americas, Venezuela has opted to go in the opposite direction,” said a White House senior administration official about the president’s executive order on Venezuela.
Meanwhile, all Washington has to do is nothing while Venezuela cries foe in the dark.