Like Iran, Venezuela isn't in great shape to confront a potentially devastating pandemic. And instead of loosening sanctions and offering aid to the Maduro regime, the Trump Administration is cranking up the pressure, hoping to use the outbreak as more leverage to finally depose the Communist dictatorship in South America.
According to CNN, the White House is preparing to designate Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism as soon as Thursday while bringing criminal charges against President Nicolas Maduro, who has managed to hang on to power for more than a year since the US-backed head of the legislature Juan Guaido declared himself the legitimate ruler of Venezuela, a decision that was backed by dozens of countries around the world.
But at the end of the day, the opposition wasn't strong enough to weaken Maduro, who retained the loyalty of the country's military, as the socialists remain immensely popular among the poor and indigent, who still worship Hugo Chavez for "taking back" the country's oil wealth and spending it on the people (before mortgaging it away to Russia and China).
Now, in a momentous move that will mark a new low in relations between the US and Venezuela, the US is preparing to charge Maduro with serious crimes, including drug trafficking, while also criminally charging other senior figures in his government. That means if they leave Venezuela without the proper protection, they could find themselves in a federal prison with El Chapo.
Meanwhile, the designation of being a financier of terrorism puts Venezuela in the company of only four other countries, North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria, that have "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism". The designation will also open the door to more crippling sanctions against a country with a worthless currency.
AG Barr is expected to announce the designation and charges at a news conference Thursday morning, which will give reporters something to talk about aside from the coronavirus panic.
The designation comes after many thought the situation between the US and Venezuela had cooled. But apparently the Trump Administration is trying to send a message: the US just doesn't 'back off' when it doesn't get its way.