Sputnik: What are Tillerson’s foreign policy aims on his visit to Latin America?
Dr Jairo Lugo Ocando: I think overall the effort of the Trump administration is to harden sanctions against specific officials in the Maduro administration. One of the things that has perhaps not been emphasised enough, is that the current sanctions from both the European Union and the United States against the Venezuelan government, is not against the government so far, but against specific officials of the government, barring them from example, having international bank accounts or transferring money abroad. European Union sanctions have been very difficult for Venezuela because a lot of the accounts of the officials of the government of Maduro are in Europe and not in the United States, which now will have to comply with the sanctions. The United States wants to take these sanctions one step further and one of the things the Trump administration is considering is a possible embargo against the Venezuelan exports of oil to the United States. The United States is still the main market for the Venezuelan oil and also the only country that actually pays in cash to the Venezuelan government. Everybody else pays in exchange or in debt. It doesn’t bring any money into the country. The United States government’s cash is vital to keep the crumbling economy running.
Sputnik: What is the attitude of other Latin American countries towards Venezuela?
Dr Jairo Lugo Ocando: The political tide has changed. Now a lot of the countries that used to be allies of Venezuela have expressed a deep concern about what’s going on; including left-wing governments like the previous one in Chile and places like Uruguay. Venezuela is left with very few allies; basically it’s places like Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua who are sticking with unconditional support to Nicolas Maduro. Other than that; what you have is an open door for the United States to come and co-ordinate international efforts, to pressure the government of Nicolas Maduro to make dramatic changes.
Sputnik: Is it actually possible that the Venezuelan Army could turn on Maduro?
Dr Jairo Lugo Ocando: The army is very in favour of the Maduro regime. Out of twenty five ministers, twenty two are active or retired military, so if anything has happened over the years, the military has increased its power over the country.