Nicolas Maduro, the former Venezuelan bus driver who’s ruled his country by decree for five years now, knows all and sees all.
Under his reign of error, Venezuela and its 32 million people have experienced rising crime, violence, corruption, hunger, infectious disease, hyper-inflation and now a record exodus of refugees to neighboring countries.
But something new may soon appear on the political radar of Maduro’s socialist, increasingly authoritarian regime:
An imminent Trump administration designation as a state sponsor of terrorism possibly followed by a U.S. embargo on oil purchases. Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to the United States. But the United States is Venezuela’s largest oil customer.
Such a step would further cripple the economy of a country Trump once discussed as a possible target of military intervention given the social, political and humanitarian mayhem it is spawning across the South American continent.
For now, Washington media is reporting consultations going on throughout the administration on the impact of a designation as a sponsor of terrorism. That would be a serious escalation of conflict between the two countries and one generating considerable controversy among experts in the D.C. swamp.
Only four other countries have been slapped with that label — Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea.
Candidly, such a legal designation has not changed their behaviors much. But it does enable the U.S. and other countries to slap real economic sanctions on them and their officials.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has been a vociferous proponent of the steps, given the Maduro regime’s longstanding support of Cuba’s Castro regime and its ties to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), among others.
According to some news reports, the State Department’s request for comments from other administration departments indicated a sense of urgency.
Republicans in Louisiana and Texas have opposed the boycott idea, given their numerous refineries that rely on Venezuela’s crude oil for supplies. The terror designation would curb U.S. assistance and halt financial transactions.
It might also exacerbate Venezuela’s mushrooming health crisis as medical institutions and supplies crumble amid rising threats from rampant malnutrition and widespread outbreaks of malaria, tuberculosis and measles, a highly infectious malady that has already spread to Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, among other places.
But it might also increase the pressures to cause Maduro, the dictatorial heir of Hugo Chavez, to buckle.