War by Other Means: How the Unofficial naval Blockade Against Venezuela Operates

The naval blockade has been on the discussion table of the architects of the continued coup, but it has been a fact not decreed for several years.

By Mision Verdad

In the current year, its execution has taken shape as part of the continuous coup and the United States has added it to its tactics along with the electric attack, the continuous imposition of sanctions and calls for military coups.

CUTZ OPTION: “SOMETHING OF LOW INTENSITY LIKE A NAVAL BLOCKADE”

The Center for International Strategic Studies (CSIS) convened a closed meeting on April 10 in Washington. There were current and former representatives of the State Department, the National Intelligence Council and the National Security Council such as Admiral Kurt Tidd, former commander of the Southern Command.

In the event, called “Evaluation of the use of military force in Venezuela”, the crisis in Venezuela was addressed and the possibility of a naval blockade emerged as a measure of pressure to achieve the ouster of Nicolás Maduro.

One of those attending the meeting was Fernando Cutz, labeled as one of the key architects of the coup in Venezuela by journalist Max Blumenthal . This character told the newspaper La Vanguardia in a subsequent telephone interview that “an invasion is not possible, but something of low intensity, such as a naval blockade, might serve to get out of this tie situation.” He added that “it would only be feasible if there is support from other countries.”

Cutz, who belonged to the Cohen Group National Security Council and advised former US ambassador William Brownfield, has worked on a strategy to “divide the inner circle of Nicolás Maduro” that resulted in the Pentagon’s failure in its attempt to divide the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) on April 30, a few days after the meeting.

However, his vision of the naval blockade is an underground expression of military intervention, very explicitly.

THE PREVIOUS ONE: MILITARY AND CORPORATE MANEUVERS

In an effort to regain prominence and hegemony in the Caribbean, the United States carried out exercises such as Tradewings and Unitas , in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The message for the countries in the area was clear: pressuring them to serve as a logistics platform for an attack against Venezuela, Cuba and / or Nicaragua.

The Tradewings exercises, carried out in June 2017, 600 kilometers from the Venezuelan coast, were identified as “a multinational maneuver of maritime security and disaster responses in the Caribbean” while the Unitas multinational exercises, where Colombia was the host and more than 18 countries participated, were held to “fight against transnational crime and to provide support during a humanitarian crisis” through a deployment of radioelectronic exploration and airborne forces.

In both trials the humanitarian excuse was used with which the Pentagon failed in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, unable to avoid the impact of cholera and its thousands of deaths, and also in Dominica and Puerto Rico after the impact of Hurricane Maria (occurring only three months after Tradewings) that caused at least 3,000 deaths without the United States being able to act effectively to avoid them.

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Then, in May 2018, the Marine Traffic map (a naval monitoring website) showed red dots blocking the access to the three main Venezuelan oil ports: there were 82 large-scale tankers that had been detained in port for days to prevent them from being seized with its oil load by the Trump Administration and the American ConocoPhillips, one of the world’s largest oil companies.

The reason was that, weeks before, Conoco had initiated legal action to collect 2,040 million dollars that the Venezuelan government “had to pay” after losing an arbitration trial in the International Chamber of Commerce (a dispute resolution body) for the nationalization of projects in Venezuela during 2007.

“We will look for all available legal means to obtain full and fair compensation for our expropriated investments in Venezuela,” the transnational warned in a statement.

To try to collect compensation, Conoco tried to take several PDVSA assets located outside Venezuela, mainly in Bonaire, Curaçao and San Eustacio. However, the first actions were directed at oil shipments and even the tankers owned by PDVSA.

While the Venezuelan government expressed resounding rejection against the US transnational, Reuters said the Venezuelan state would suspend its operations once the inventories of crude were exhausted, since no new shipments to the Caribbean were expected.

It would then modify its trade agreements to begin delivering all its oil for export in Venezuelan waters, including ship-to-ship transfers that have had to be made to ship cargo to Asian destinations.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SANCTIONS AGAINST FREE TRADE

On April 5, the United States government applied sanctions to vessels and shipping contractors of PDVSA for exporting oil to Cuba.

The decision included 34 vessels, with which the United States would block any transaction, and two shipping companies, Ballito Bay Shipping Incorporated, based in Greece, and ProPer In Management Incorporated based in Liberia, for its connection with the ship Despina Andrianna, which, according to U.S. authorities delivered Venezuelan oil to Cuba during February and March 2019.

The decision announced by US Vice President Mike Pence was accompanied by a statement from Steven Mnuchin, secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury.

The following week, on April 12, the United States Department of the Treasury sanctioned four companies with headquarters in Liberia and Italy and nine oil cargo ships with the flags of Italy, Malta, Greece and Panama.

On May 10, after the coup against the Venezuelan government failed, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury sanctioned two other shipping companies.

The shipping companies sanctioned were Monsoon Navigation Corporation and Serenity Maritime Limited, the first, based in Majuro, Marshall Islands, is the owner of the Ocean Elegance vessel, which delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba from late 2018 until March 2019; and the second, based in Monrovia, Liberia, owns the ship Leon Dias, also used between the end of last year and March this year to bring Venezuelan crude to the Caribbean island.

RELATED CONTENT: The United States Strategic Agenda for Venezuela

CLOUDY WATERS, CLEAR INTENTIONS

Earlier this August, Donald Trump was asked by journalists if he considered a blockade or quarantine against Venezuela and said yes, without going into details, Bloomberg reported .

These statements occurred on the same day that the Operational Strategic Command of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (CEOFANB) denounced a new violation of Venezuelan airspace by a US aircraft, the 97th this year.

President Nicolás Maduro rejected such a threat from the US president saying that “Venezuela as a whole, in civic-military union, repudiates and rejects the declarations of Donald Trump of an alleged quarantine, of an alleged blockade. To criminal imperialism I say that: they will not be able to bow Venezuela! “, during a journey of supervision of the national shipping industry.

Maduro added that the Bolivarian Government would denounce the new threat from the United States to the Security Council of the United Nations (UN), as it threatens the Venezuelan population, and urged the military forces to remain alert to the strategies of the United States to violate the sovereignty of the Caribbean sea.

Days later, a vessel carrying 25 tons of soybeans for Venezuela was stopped in the Panama Canal due to the sanctions imposed by the United States, as stated on Twitter by Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez.

Rodriguez, who described it as a violation of international law and the UN Charter, added that an insurance company told the owner of the detained ship that it had been banned from bringing merchandise to Venezuela due to sanctions.

The events occurred after Trump issued an executive order to freeze the assets of the Venezuelan state in the United States.

The event did not have major significance because the Canal Authority denied the facts and international media distracted from the issue by referring to a Venezuelan fishing boat, named Blue Fin, which was stopped due to technical deficiencies found during an inspection on the Panamanian coast in compliance with international standards, as reported by the Panama Maritime Authority.

TIGHTENING THE SIEGE
A note by Jonathan Swan published in the web portal Axios confirms Trump’s “obsession” regarding the idea of a naval blockade and how he has repeatedly raised it for at least a year and a half.

Trump suggested to national security officials that the United States should park military ships along the Venezuelan coast to prevent goods from entering and leaving the country, according to five current and former officials who have heard or been informed about Trump’s private comments.

The publication refers to sources that have commented on phrases such as:

“He literally said that we should take out the ships and make a naval embargo,” said a source who heard the president’s comments. “Prevent everything from entering.”
“I suppose you are thinking about the Cuban missile crisis.”

“But Cuba is an island and Venezuela is a massive coast. And Cuba would know what we are trying to prevent from entering. But what are we talking about? It would need huge and huge amounts of resources; probably more than the US Navy can provide”.
In addition, he states that Trump is deeply frustrated that the Venezuelan opposition has not been able to overthrow Maduro after more than three months of a failed uprising (April 30), and more than six months that Trump led the world in recognizing Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela (February 23).

Rather, their environment is focused on diplomacy and economic pressure, they have little interest in military options because they have no legal basis and it would absorb the resources of a navy that is already extended to counteract China and Iran, although they do not discard it.

He goes on to explain how former Defense Secretary James Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former chief of staff John Kelly collaborated to ignore or hinder what they considered Trump’s dangerous requests. Also how he reprimanded his former national security adviser HR McMaster, asking him why he had not produced the Venezuelan military options he had requested, an order Mattis ignored even while being urged by McMaster to set a deadline.

This dynamic changed once John Bolton and Mike Pompeo took over, however Swan says that, according to senior administration officials, Trump is no longer interested in sending US ground troops to Venezuela but has told them to continue to build pressure on Maduro and looking for “creative ways to help Guaidó” get Maduro out of power.

After the so-called failures, the evidence draws a route to the naval blockade with variable pressure increases; it seems that the objective is to increase the distrust of shipping companies and in various links of the naval operation to also deconfigure the economic activity associated with imports and exports.

As the military intervention in the Libyan, Syrian, Panama or Afghanistan style is usually expensive, more in its geographical surroundings, the game of the American leadership of the day consists in tightening the economic and financial barrier that complicates the advance of allies such as Russia or China to establish relations with free and sovereign countries like Venezuela, with the intention of providing a cautionary lesson for those who try.

Featured image: According to Axios, the naval blockade of Venezuela would be a Trump “obsession” (Photo: Aïda Amer / Axios)

Source URL: Mision Verdad

Translated by JRE/EF

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