AP EXPLAINS: US intensifies actions to depose Maduro

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CARACAS (AP) – The government of President Donald Trump has filed charges against the Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, and against more than a dozen of his closest collaborators, redoubling his efforts to remove the socialist ruler from power. Federal prosecutors announced Thursday the drug trafficking charges against Maduro. Washington supports opposition lawmaker Juan Guaidó, who intends to overthrow Maduro. The accusations were announced at a time when Maduro has ordered a total quarantine in Venezuela to stop the spread of the new coronavirus and while the oil nation resents the fall in international oil prices. Here is a perspective of the American accusations in the tumultuous political, social and economic panorama of Venezuela:

WHAT DO THE ACCUSATIONS SAY?

The United States Department of Justice accuses Maduro and his closest circle of turning Venezuela into a criminal company at the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups, since he and his allies allegedly stole billions of dollars from the South American country rich in gold. and oil.

Maduro, the head of the socialist party Diosdado Cabello and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, among others, are accused of conspiring for several years with Colombian rebels and members of the Venezuelan armed forces “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use narcotics trafficking as a “weapon against the United States.”

Maduro lashed out at the allegations and described President Donald Trump as a “racist cowboy” who handles international relations as a “New York Mafia blackmailer.”

HOW DID IT GET HERE?

The United States and Venezuela have been ideological enemies for two decades, since the late President Hugo Chávez launched a socialist revolution in the South American nation. Detractors assure that the policies maintained by Maduro have immersed the nation in its current political and economic crisis.

The Trump government was the first among more than 50 nations that supported Guaidó in early 2019, who won presidential powers and promised to remove Maduro from power, as well as to end the crisis in the country, which It has forced around 5 million Venezuelans to leave their homeland. Guaidó assures that Maduro’s reelection in 2018 was fraudulent because most of the popular opposition politicians were prevented from participating.

Before the indictment, the White House imposed financial sanctions on Maduro, dozens of his aides, and state oil firm PDVSA.

However, Maduro remains entrenched in power because he retains control of the main institutions and the Venezuelan armed forces. The country’s top military officials reiterated on Friday on state television their support for Maduro, who has the backing of China, Russia and Cuba.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society research center, said Friday that the charges add to Maduro’s isolation.

Farnsworth noted that the criminal prosecution does not inhibit the possibility of negotiating Maduro’s departure through unofficial channels. Rather, he noted, the 15 million reward for capturing Maduro could incentivize him to consider leaving Venezuela and seeking a new life elsewhere.

“He has to be watching his back all the time,” said Farnsworth. “There is a $ 15 million reward for your head in a country that is starving and full of weapons. That is something you should be even more aware of. “

CONSEQUENCES ON GUAIDÓ

The same day that the US charges were announced, Maduro’s attorney general opened an investigation against the opposition leader for allegedly planning a coup d’état with a retired Venezuelan army officer in neighboring Colombia.

However, the Maduro government has repeatedly launched investigations against Guaidó and threatened to arrest him. Guaidó often receives threats from Maduro’s supporters, but has not been arrested. Experts have expressed fear that the capture of Guaidó could provoke foreign intervention.

Maduro has warned that Guaidó will eventually pay for his alleged crimes.

The future that Venezuela holds divides the experts. The collapse could continue for years as Venezuelan emigration increases, or the rulers of border states could split to manage their regions independently as the central government in Caracas loses control.

The international drop in oil prices and the government’s inability to deal with the new coronavirus could cause a revolt within Maduro’s closest circle, possibly the armed forces, analysts say.

“Venezuela is going to be a very different country in a year,” said Farnsworth.

Scott Smith is on Twitter as @ScottSmithAP

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