'Venezuela Will Be Another Syria Soon' –Scholar

© AP Photo / Ariana CubillosA voter chooses his candidate next to a mural of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during presidential elections in Caracas, Venezuela
A voter chooses his candidate next to a mural of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez during presidential elections in Caracas, Venezuela - Sputnik International
The leaders of Brazil and Argentina have agreed to join the United States in their opposition to Venezuela’s current government. This comes after reports that US President Donald Trump may recognise Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s legitimate president.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's government is in talks with Turkey over plans to refine tonnes of gold. In 2017, the country stopped refining its gold in Switzerland and announced its plans to repatriate its gold reserve from the UK over fears that it could be frozen under US or EU sanctions. Sputnik discussed Venezuela's plans to repatriate its gold from the United Kingdom with Dr. Mehmet Ozkan, a Senior Fellow with the Center for Global Policy.

Sputnik: What would happen if Venezuela's plans to refine their gold in Turkey are cancelled? How would this affect the country's economy?

Mehmet Ozkan: Gold is one of the most important incomes now for Venezuela because its oil production has decreased more than 50 percent; so now they depend on gold for an income. So, it's more than focusing too much on refining gold, whether in Turkey or somewhere else.

READ MORE: Ending Venezuelan Crisis Complicated by Attitudes Towards Maduro — Russian Envoy

Now they have very good relations with Turkey, so they are focusing on Turkey. But, as I said, it's very critical for the Venezuelan economy just because of the decrease of their oil production. The Venezuelan economy is facing hard times.

Sputnik: In your view, how realistic are Venezuela's plans?

Mehmet Ozkan: I don't know if it's realistic or not, but they are trying to find their way; because, as you know, they problem is not economic, the problem is political. So, there are two problems there.

Various gold bars are on display at the Bundesbank headquarter in Frankfurt, Germany (File) - Sputnik International
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First, domestically, there is no talk, there is nothing between the opposition and the Maduro government. Secondly, regionally, all the countries are trying to isolate Venezuela; and today Nicolás Maduro can only travel to a few countries in the world and he cannot travel anywhere in the region. He is sort of eliminated from all the regional meetings and everything.

So, what happens is a political crisis, and depending on how they resolve this crisis, I think [their] economy can come back, because Venezuela has a vast majority of oil. Now its economy is bad because of the lack of technology, many people have left. It has become the Syria of Latin America in a way; more than 3 million people have already left the country. So, it's a huge political crisis, it's not an easy one to resolve.

Sputnik: How high are the chances that these plans could result in sanctions against Turkey?

Mehmet Ozkan: Trump has put some sanctions on those who are exerting gold from Venezuela, but so far there hasn't been any issue between Turkey and the United States. But no one knows and in the future it can be an issue.

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But, as you know, Turkey and the US are mostly focusing on Syria and on many other issues in the region; now the issue of Venezuela is not on the table. Turkey has excellent relations with Maduro 's government and even the opposition; I think Turkey can play a role in facilitating, perhaps, [the relations] between the opposition [and the government].

Turkey also has excellent relations with Colombia, which is the arch enemy of Venezuela in the region. I mean, Turkey enjoys excellent relations which many countries don't have.

Sputnik: Caracas announced its plans to repatriate its gold reserves from Britain over fears that it could be frozen under US or European Union sanctions. How likely is that they will succeed in doing that?

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Mehmet Ozkan: This gold issue is not a first time; it was the same with Iran in 2010. I think global politics are changing and the international economy is also changing. Even sanctions have become not as effective as before.

So, I'm not really sure. Many people are already defining this issue: "We've had experience with Iran and many countries, that's why the United States had to make some exception with regard to sanctions on Iran." People can ask for the same things for Venezuela as well.

Sputnik: Can the Bank of England refuse to meet with Venezuelan officials? What consequences could the bank endure if it refuses to give back the gold?

Mehmet Ozkan: I don't think Venezuela expects its gold to come back because they know that the Bank of England can follow these sanctions. That's why they are trying to find new countries, such as Turkey, to refine their gold. In a way, they are trying to evade possible sanctions implemented by Western countries; that's why they are focusing so much on their relations with Turkey. But I don't think there is an expectation from Venezuela that they will get their gold back, that's the main mood in Venezuela, perhaps.

Sputnik: What's your take on the US decision to support Juan Guaido over Nicolás Maduro? How important is it for the situation in Venezuela?

Mehmet Ozkan: You know, it's a symbolic action if they recognise, but it's not a solution; because the solution is not bringing someone as a president. The opposition is very divided in Venezuela, we can talk about more than 50 parties; it's extremely divided.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro - Sputnik International
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And there is no opposition leader, and the opposition is very dispersed. The only solution for Venezuela is either to have diplomacy, which is approaching slowly, but giving an exit for Maduro and his people.

Secondly, it's enough isolating them' the more you isolate them, the more ostracised they become, which is not helpful. What's happening is that soon Venezuela will be another Syria because it will be a very tense issue between, perhaps, Russia and the United States, and other countries, because in global politics any small regional issue immediately turns into a global political international system issue.

READ MORE: EU Refuses to Send Delegation to Attend Maduro's Inauguration — Press Service

Now if we look at the issue in Syria, it has international system dimensions as well. So, if that happens, we might go back to the Cuban crisis or a different crisis but, of course, the global politics has certainly changed.

But I expect that in the coming years, if they continue this policy of ostracizing Maduro and sort of isolating him, it will be another global international system crisis with more international actors involved in the process.

The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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