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    Venezuela Might Mutate Into Yet Another US-China Battlefield – Historian

    © AFP 2019 / NICOLAS ASFOURI
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    The US and China have taken opposite sides with regard to the ongoing Venezuelan crisis. Speaking to Sputnik, former UN independent expert Alfred de Zayas and Chinese academic Jiang Shixue shared their views on Beijing's relations with Caracas, explaining why self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido has zero legitimacy.

    "Venezuela might indeed mutate into yet another US-China battlefield", Alfred de Zayas, an American lawyer, writer, historian and former UN independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, told Sputnik, adding that he does not believe that the US will benefit within the framework of trade war with China.

    Following the Venezuelan opposition's attempt to hijack power by declaring Juan Guaido an interim president, the US, which has recognised the self-proclaimed leader, introduced unilateral sanctions against Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA on 28 January, planning to block $7 billion in the firm's assets.

    In response, Beijing lambasted Washington's move: "We oppose unilateral sanctions", a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out, adding that China will continue to maintain cooperation with Caracas.

    In December 2018, Reuters reported that PDVSA subsidiary the Venezuelan Petroleum Corporation (CVP) and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) had doubled production in the previous seven months and were due to "slow a freefall in Venezuela's output". The PDVSA and CNPC have maintained a joint venture since 2006.

    According to Zayas, "[the] PDVSA should begin multiple legal actions to protect the company". He admitted that it would be difficult "when US courts are not neutral and will not entertain favourably any litigation from Venezuela".

    "Washington's sanctions were illegal from day one", Zayas said. "Of course, if Maduro is toppled and Guido takes over — the sanctions will be lifted.  Guaido will follow US instructions".

    The historian recalled that "since 1999 the US has tried to asphyxiate the Venezuelan government, and in 2002 cooperated in the failed coup against Chavez".

    "The aim of the sanctions and financial blockade is to cause such havoc in the country that the Venezuelan people will turn against Maduro — the US has been betting on a popular revolt to topple Maduro.  When that did not work, they financed the opposition and encouraged them to a parliamentary coup d'etat", he elaborated.

    The lawyer explained that, according to the Venezuelan Constitution, if Maduro cannot exercise his functions as president, then it is the vice president and not the National Assembly who takes the helm. 

    "It is almost comical to auto-proclaim oneself president", he highlighted. "Guaido has zero legitimacy and it is a violation of multiple principles of customary international law and breakdown of international morals when countries like the US, UK, [and] Canada recognize a pretender".

    Still, Zayas believes that currently "the Maduro government has little choice but to accept the illegal and illegitimate demands to call new elections".

    According to him, "probably the seven or eight million committed Chavistas will re-elect [Maduro] again". However, "the opposition counts with the effects of the economic blackmail and the exhaustion of the Venezuelan people after nearly 20 years of economic war, sabotage, induced Inflation, etc." the historian elaborated.

    Venezuela Won't Turn Into 'Syria'… At Least for Now

    Speaking to Sputnik, Professor Jiang Shixue, director of the Centre for Latin American Studies at Shanghai University, explained why Beijing had thrown its weight behind Maduro: "China supports anybody who is elected by the people. Everybody knows who was elected by the people. So China supports Maduro".

    He admitted that China has economic and business interests in the country, foreseeing that "economic cooperation between China and Venezuela will continue to move forward no matter who is in power".

    The Washington DC-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies estimates that over the past decade, Venezuela has received $62 billion from the People's Republic of China, which is 53 percent of all money lent by Beijing to Latin America.

    According to Jiang, it's hardly surprising that Washington is up in arms about China's decision to support the legitimate Venezuelan president.

    Referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent remark that Beijing is resisting democracy in Venezuela because China itself has "problems with democracy", the professor noted: "Pompeo can say anything he wishes to say".

    "The US wants to criticize China whenever there is an opportunity", the academic stressed. "What is happening in Venezuela is… a kind of interference in a sovereign country, an act of power politics and hegemony. If the US could be the best model of democracy, why does it interfere in other country's domestic affairs. That's against the UN charter".

    Still, he expressed confidence that the Venezuelan crisis won't affect the ongoing trade talks between Washington and Beijing, saying that "they are different cups of coffee".

    The Chinese scholar believes that the US might understand that China's relationship with Venezuela is not directed against any third party: "This kind of cooperation is not against the United States", he highlighted.

    Jiang deems that Venezuela will not become "a Syria in Western hemisphere" regardless of the mounting pressure against the Venezuelan president.

    "In the case of Syria, the external powers, including the US, sent weapons to the opposition. In the case of Venezuela, so far, luckily, the opposition does not have weapons. But who knows whether someone will supply the Venezuelan opposition with weapons", he concluded.

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

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Topic:
    Political Crisis in Venezuela (573)

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    Tags:
    oil, protests, constitution, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), PDVSA, Juan Guaido, Mike Pompeo, Nicolas Maduro, Hugo Chavez, China, Syria, United States, Venezuela
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