Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Incentives in U.S. Policy Toward Venezuela

The Washington Post has a fascinating story based on extensive interviews with Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, who until April 30th was head of SEBIN, the Venezuelan intelligence agency, until he joined the 5/1 (then 4/30) plot against Maduro and then fled. A lot of it is uncorroborated, so take it with a grain of salt, but by this point the basic theme of extreme corruption seems uncontroversial.

I want to look at just one bit of it, which relates to the incentives behind the entire uprising.
In February, a group of Venezuelan businessmen, including media mogul Raúl Gorrín, who was put under sanctions by Washington and indicted on U.S. charges of money laundering, approached the Americans with a plan. The centerpiece, according to several people familiar with it: flipping key Maduro loyalists, including the chief justice of Venezuela’s supreme court, Maikel Moreno. 
The men had been serving as interlocutors between the Trump administration and members of the regime, the people familiar with the plan said, and were eager to improve their own situations with the United States, where they were used to sending their children to school and their wives on weekend shopping sprees.
What this means is that Chavistas flipped because a) there were targeted sanctions against them; and b) the U.S. had dangled the possibility of getting them removed. Note, moreover, that no one talks about the misery of the Venezuelan people. The general sanctions didn't enter into their calculations because they are shielded from the effects. While people went hungry, they continued to shop in Miami. Once that got harder, they started plotting.


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