Self-proclaimed President of Venezuela, Juan Guaido has now been stripped of his parliamentary immunity. The National Constituent Assembly voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve a measure that strips Guaido of his immunity and authorizes the Supreme Court to criminally prosecute him for proclaiming himself the leader of the country. In addition, The court ruling cited Guaido’s violation of a ban on his travel outside Venezuela when he visited Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay from late February to early March. For this he can also be prosecuted.
This should start to make things very interesting since Guaido has been recognised as interim president by more than 50 countries, while Russia, Cuba and China are backing Maduro. The Trump administration has threatened Caracas with a strong response in an event of his arrest. Just before the vote against Guaido was announced, US Republican Senator Marco Rubio accused the Venezuelan government of plotting a coup d’état and trying to “abduct” Guaido.
The situation in Venezuela has gone from bad to worst. In addition to the political battle, the country has been hit by a series of debilitating blackouts that have left millions without water. Maduro’s reaction has been to replace the country’s energy minister and institute power rationing in a bid to address the outages. Venezuela experienced three major blackouts in March, worsening already dire living and economic conditions in the country, and prompting authorities to take steps aimed at curbing the outages. Maduro and his government blamed “terrorists” for alleged attacks that have damaged the country’s main hydroelectric power plant, while providing no proof.
At the heart of the battle for control of Venezuela are the oil reserves. Venezuela sits upon the world’s largest oil reserves. PdVSA is Maduro’s primary source of cash, Venezuela’s state-run energy company, PDVSA, kept oil exports near 1 million barrels per day in March despite U.S. sanctions and power outages that crippled its main export terminal, according to PDVSA documents and Refinitiv Eikon data.
As long as the oil is flowing, Maduro is well financed. Therefore, U.S. President Donald Trump is considering imposing sanctions on companies from other countries that do business with Venezuela, according to White House national security adviser John Bolton. According to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the measures will block $7 billion in assets and could result in more than $11 billion in lost assets over the next year.
However, that may be easier said than done as China is one of the largest buyers of the oil. That is likely to put additional pressure on the current US/China trade negotiations. Although as the amount of oil to China has decreased, the amount to India has increased. How India will react to a trade skirmish with the US is anybody’s guess.