Yes, Bolton’s book does really matter in Venezuela. Let’s find out why


Nicolás Maduro has yet to be overthrown in Venezuela. U.S. foreign policy towards Venezuela has turned out to be a disaster. To make things worse, President Trump still needs to save face in Venezuela before the presidential election later this year, even if the face-saving comes without President Maduro’s ouster. The Venezuelan opposition has proven to be highly overpromising, optimistic, and ‘sensationalist’, but not very reliable and successful when it comes to veracity of the facts provided and fulfilling of promises made. And then there is a two-decade-long history of the United States government missed opportunities in Venezuela. As Barbara Boland (2020) has pointed out, Americans do not even know where the $610 million in Venezuelan aid has really gone  —  and they have been told that 200 more million dollar are about to be send to the South American country .

It is no secret that the Trump administration has been divided over a large number of issues, such as the deployment of a new 5G cellular network, the economic sanctions policy towards Russia and its implementation, the coronavirus emergency funding deal, and more recently, the deployment of the military — invoking the 1807 Insurrection Act — to quell the ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and racial divisions across the United States. Some analysts, such as Rush Limbaugh, have even warned that the second American civil war is underway. At the beginning of April, President Donald Trump removed the acting watchdog charged with overseeing the $2 trillion in new coronavirus relief spending, Glenn Fine. The Trump administration did not give a reason for his removal, and has continued to refuse to do so. (Bennett, 2020; Boland, 2020; Boland, 2020; Carney, 2018; Cohen, 2020; Johnson, 2020; Perry, 2020).

“It’s time to abolish CIA & FISA”, argued Angelo Codevilla, an Italian-US professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University, former professional staff member of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, former U.S. navy officer, and diplomat. According to Codevilla, senior intelligence officials were the key element in the war on Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency. By fabricating facts, the CIA managed to create the Russiagate narrative that ultimately led to impeachment.

John Bolton (2020, p. 226) said: “Venezuela hadn’t topped my priorities when I started but competent national-security management requires flexibility when new threats or opportunities arise (…) Venezuela was a threat on its own account, as demonstrated in a December 22 incident at sea, along the Guyana-Venezuela border. Venezuelan naval units tried to board Exxon Mobil exploration ships, under licenses from Guyana in its territorial waters. Chávez and Maduro had run Venezuela’s oil-and-gas industry into a ditch, and extensive hydrocarbon resources in Guyana would pose an immediate competitive threat right next door”.

In his own words, Venezuela was not a top U.S. national security priority. part from its connections with the governments of Cuba, China, Russia and Iran, things started to change, however, in 2019, because of the potentially large deposits of oil known in the disputed area by Guyana and Venezuela, as well as Guyana’s continued disputed elections. Extensive hydrocarbon resources in Guyana, to be exploited by Exxon Mobil, pose an immediate competitive threat to Venezuela’s security.

In the ‘Venezuela Libre’ chapter Bolton suggests that this is not only about democracy and human rights, but about making money, securing the U.S. energy supply in the Western hemisphere, and advancing U.S. interests. Bolton (2020, p. 227) adds: “Trump also periodically said that he wanted to meet with Maduro to resolve all our problems with Venezuela, which neither Pompeo nor I thought was a good idea”. Indeed, by being willing to meet the man his administration has accused to be a dictator, Trump is accused by Bolton of having no moral values but focusing on fulfilling long-term political and foreign policy agendas. Bolton even claims that Trump said that “Venezuela was really part of the United States”. If true, this is a threat to the Venezuelan state sovereignty and international law. The United States of America portrays itself as a promoter of democracy rather than an invader and yet, Bolton (2020, p. 245) writes that: “At the end of March 7, we had word of massive power outages across Venezuela, exacerbated by the decrepit state of the country’s power grid. My first thought was that Guaidó or someone had decided to take matters into their own hands”, and the government took no actions. Bolton’s book contradicts U.S. official narrative on Venezuela.

Bolton confessed that Donald Trump has never taken Juan Guaidó very seriously. By spring 2019, Trump was calling Guaidó the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela”. In November 2019, Trump called O’Rouke a poor bastard. Moreover, Bolton said that Trump doubted Maduro would fall, having said he was too smart and too tough. In sum, Trump’s opinion on Maduro was by far more positive than his view of Guaidó (Pengelly, 2019; Bolton, 2020, p. 230; Bolton, 2020; p. 251). This is something to be very concerned of in Venezuela, as Maduro, frequently called ‘Maburro’ by opponents, has been called “smart” by Donald Trump, who is also considered a “savior” by the Venezuelan opposition. It is pathetic to find out that Venezuelans have been building castles in the air all this time, believing that they would be saved by the US when we come to discover it would never happen.

Bolton slaps again the face of the Venezuelan opposition, saying: “We believed Guaidó and the Opposition would take the opportunity to speak with Russian and Chinese diplomats and business types, stressing it was in their interest not to take sides in the intra-Venezuelan dispute” (Bolton, 2020, p. 238). Overcoming sinophobia and russophobia was one of the main challenges of the Venezuelan opposition. Not only their actions, but also their words, have aggravated the already-existing doubts of the U.S., Chinese and Russian administrations. Guaidó’s team did not build confidence among the Chinese and the Russians nor contribute to the conditions needed for a peaceful solution.

The damage is done, said judge Royce Lamberth (Gerstein & Cheney, 2020). Yes, the damage is done. The book is out. It has already leaked. The world is now wondering what possessed Bolton to remain silent and go out of his way to avoid testifying during an impeachment inquiry. We have legitimate reasons not to believe everything Bolton has said, even if we recognize that many of his statements make sense. He has yet to explain a great many of his motivations and actions so for now, it is wise to remain skeptical.

The truth is that the damage has not only been done to the Trump administration and its Republican allies for the 2020 election, but to America’s already-suffering international image as well. After spending a great deal of time and resources to build trust and confidence in the United States, U.S. foreign policy-makers might find out that their effort has been wasted. Bolton’s book raises serious doubts about U.S. moral authority and legitimacy as the world’s policeman.

According to an article published today on Axios, Donald Trump has considered meeting Venezuela president Nicolás Maduro (Swan, 2020). Some argue that Trump’s words could have been decontextualized though. But what is the best thing to do here? President Donald Trump may have lost patience, and he might be right when having second-thoughts to not recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, and we cannot blame him for that. While this political power struggle unfolds, one of the major underlying concerns for the Venezuelan people is the dramatic ongoing crisis.

Trump indicated that he does not have much confidence in Guaidó, and we cannot blame him for that. This has been a waste of time and human lives. The Venezuelan opposition has proven to be highly overpromising, optimistic, and ‘sensationalist’, but not very reliable and successful when it comes to veracity of the facts provided and fulfilling of promises made. Lastly, and perhaps, most importantly, this inaction is seriously damaging the U.S. reputation across the world. Is Donald Trump to blame for the U.S. failure to assist Venezuela? The U.S. still supports Juan Guaidó, but we should not condemn Americans if they decide to change their minds, as it is their right to do so when geopolitics changes daily. Rarely do things go as planned in revolutionary situations and holding back and waiting can sometimes make the difference between success and failure.


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