Venezuela is exploding right now in violence, in the wake of wannabe-dictator Nicolas Maduro's attempt to dissolve the elected legislature and his imprisonment of political rivals. His regime is even now arming gangs of Red Shirts to violently suppress massive protests against his socialist regime. The Bolivarian Republic's economy is swooning, its people are starving and fleeing, shortages of basic food and medical items remain acute, and the government has just expropriated General Motors' plant there.
The world's eyes are on President Trump, as the leader of the nation that has, ever since the Monroe Doctrine, felt a special duty toward enforcing the stability and independence of the Western Hemisphere. And unfortunately, Trump has a small conflict:
A Venezuelan state-owned oil company, heavily indebted to the Russian oil giant Rosneft, made a $500,000 donation to Donald Trump's inauguration festivities, it has emerged. Foreign donations are banned under US law, but the Venezuelan company, PdVSA, made the donation through a US affiliate, Citgo Petrol, soon after offering a nearly 50% stake in Citgo to Rosneft as collateral for a $1.5bn loan.
There are certainly no signs that Trump's policy toward Venezuela has been affected by this so far. He may well do the right thing without thinking twice. He probably will, especially with Americans' property at stake in a foreign land.
But this is the problem with transparency and the appearance of impropriety. Ideally, no one should have to wonder about this sort of thing. The rules for accepting donations for inauguration are much looser than those for campaign contributions, but one would have hoped that someone responsible on the inaugural committee might have noticed and thought twice about accepting a large donation from Hugo Chavez's ghost.