As expected the Lima Group summit hosted in Bogota, Colombia on Monday became a collective Venezuelan regime change strategy session following the weekend showdown over US humanitarian aid entering the country, which led to riots on bridges at border points Saturday.
Previously promising to announce at the meeting of the over 12 American states — most of which have recognized US-backed Juan Guaido as "legitimate" leader of Venezuela —"concrete steps" and "clear actions", Vice President Mike Pence underscored that President Trump stands behind Guaido "100 percent" after a face-to-face session with the opposition leader, the first since unrest began. Predictably Pence unveiled new sanctions targeting Caracas while calling on allies to freeze all assets of its state-owned oil company PDVSA, and further called for the United Nations Security Council to act.
"We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy. But President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table," said Pence at the summit. He indicated the pressure campaign would continue ramping up, especially while calling for all Lima Group nations to immediately freeze PDVSA’s assets.
“In the days ahead... the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks,” Pence said, according to the AFP.
“We will work with all of you to find every last dollar that they stole and work to return it to Venezuela.” The US is seeking to put all Venezuelan assets under the control of Guaido's government-in-waiting.
"In the Lima Group the consensus is that Maduro must be removed, but there is no consensus on how to do that," political scientist Laura Gil told AFP.
Despite the many defections, Maduro seems to have won this round in the power struggle.
After Saturday's events it is "not very clear" that Guaido has "massive" support in Venezuela, analyst Rafael Pineros told AFP. — AFP Report
In public statements Guaido, for his part, warned Lima group nations that "indulging" Maduro "would be a threat to all of America," which echoed Colombia President Ivan Duque's remarks calling for "more powerful and effective" pressure on the socialist leader.
Guaido's words appeared aimed toward moderates among Latin American leaders, such as Peru, whose foreign affairs minister Hugo de Zela urged they must find "a peaceful solution," despite Guaido's previous call to consider "all measures" to "liberate" Venezuela's suffering population.
Interestingly, even the AFP fully acknowledged that Monday's meeting in Colombia was ultimately intended to "thrash out a strategy to remove Nicolas Maduro from power after the failed attempt to ship in humanitarian aid."
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Now that it's clear the US plan is to attempt to steer all oil assets to Guaido's government-in-waiting through aggressive sanctions and an international freeze on purchasing (easier said than done), the question remains, where is the bulk of Venezuela's oil now going?
According to numbers summarized by the BBC:
Currently sitting off the Venezuelan coast are tankers holding in the region of 10 million barrels of oil, according to Kpler, which tracks commodities.
They were originally destined for the United States, but are stranded as a result of the sanctions.
Venezuela's government has been looking for new buyers for its oil and says it wants to double shipments to India.
But although there has been a recent increase in exports to India, it is not a substantial one, says Samah Ahmed, a crude oil analyst at Kpler.
Exports to China are also not encouraging and have in fact been dropping in line with a general decline in Venezuela's total production.
But we imagine this trend in dramatically dropping production will quickly reverse should Washington be able to successfully install Guaido in power.