On Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions on Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. The sanctions mean that ".... all assets of Nicolas Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him."
The penalties are a response to Maduro's decision to replace Venezuela's parliament with a "constituent assembly." That assembly is a democratic fiction, existing only to advance Maduro's quest for dictatorial power and restrain the rights of the Venezuelan people. Maduro claims he has a mandate for his changes thanks to a popular referendum on Sunday, but the reality is very different. The opposition boycotted the referendum and many opponents of Maduro's regime were intimidated on the streets.
The Trump administration is right to focus its ire at the man most responsible for this disgrace.
As Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster stated on Monday, Maduro had to be punished for his "sham election." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin added to the sentiment, suggesting the sanctions could be strengthened going forward. "No options are off the table," he said.
As I say, this is good news.
Still, I believe more could have been done to challenge Maduro's grip on power. Most notably, Trump should have introduced sanctions to boycott Venezuela's sale of oil to the United States. As I've explained, were the administration to join that effort with a broader international boycott, Maduro's ability to buy the support of the Venezuelan military would come under increasing doubt. At that point, his immoral regime might finally be overthrown.
It's critical that America acts as with urgency here. Each day brings more suffering to the Venezuelan people. One disgusting dichotomy explains the tragedy best: Venezuela is the world's most oil-rich nation, but its children are now starving to death in record numbers.
Such is socialism. And such is America's responsibility to oppose this malevolence.
Still, we cannot assume that this will be a zero sum game. For one, as Venezuela continues to crumble, our diplomats will face increasing threats. Correspondingly, even as Trump increases the pressure on Maduro and his cronies, he must also ensure that U.S. diplomats are adequately protected. Maduro is growing isolated and desperate. These emotions do not serve rational decision-making.
Thus we must be both resolute and ready.