tv Council on Foreign Relations Discussion on Venezuela CSPAN November 11, 2019 12:39am-1:55am EST
u.s. defense. be sure to watch c-span's washington journal monday morning. join the discussion. >> follow the house impeachment inquiry and the administration's response on c-span. unfiltered coverage live on tv, radio app, and online. watch primetime on c-span or stream any time on demand at c-span.org/impeachment. two former ambassadors joined a discussion on the political situation in venezuela. the council on foreign relations hosted the hour-long event, which covered regional security. the council on foreign relations hosted the hour-long event, which covered regional security. venezuela's oil reserves, u.s. policy options, and iran's influence in the country. venezuela's oil reserves, u.s. policy options, and iran's
i'd like to start by saying i am from mccarty associates and will be presiding over today's meeting. i'd like to introduce our panel. you got their full or partial bios in your packets, but cynthia arnson from the wilson center, the ambassador who has been in more countries than i can count -- including venezuela and colombia. >> and almost the first diplomat in history to be expelled twice from the same country, but didn't quite make it. >> i tried. >> and francisco rodriguez, who has a long career in economics. i'd like to just start by asking a general question and ask each of you in the same order i presented you, your view on things. venezuela, the situation has deteriorated dramatically and even longer. where do you see the situation today? when might there be a transition, and what should we be doing to be helping venezuela return to stability and growth? cindy? and try to keep it to five minutes or less.
cindy: i think venezuela, which looked very hopeful at the beginning of the year with the emergence of juan guaido, the spectacular levels of international acceptance and endorsement and recognition he has received, almost a year later and looking into mid-2020, i find the situation extremely grim in political and economic and social and humanitarian terms. the economy continues on its path of collapse, and the repression is a lot more selective and people are exhausted. they are not willing to go into the streets for mass demonstrations. we will see what happens november 16 when the opposition has called for elections. international negotiations brokered by the norwegian government broke down for a lot
of reasons. we can get to that maybe in the q and a. i think in these type of situations, the opposition tends to fight with itself, so there are more divisions over the strategy going forward to get rid of maduro. another marker in 2019 that marked an important turning point was the call by juan guaido at the end of april for an uprising against the government and it didn't materialize. that served to underscore the extent to which the military remains behind him. at the same time, because of the scarcity of food and medicine, the widespread deprivation and hunger, refugees continue to flood into latin america. the most recent figure is there are now as of november 4 .6 million venezuelans who have left the country, the vast majority since 2015. about 3.8 million of those are in latin america and the caribbean, and over and over again, you hear that people understand what is going on in venezuela, but we have problems
too. the capacity or incapacity for regional governments to deal with a flow and needs, it is just overwhelming the amount of international assistance to help countries in the region is nowhere what it needs to be carried that u.n. has collected about 52 percent of the figures it said it needed on a regional basis just this year and will probably be asking for double that next year. i'll just finish this opening comment by saying there is every
expectation that maduro will call for national assembly elections in mid-2020. that would be taking place, according to schedule, the last assembly dominated by opposition, the election in 2015 and should that take place, it will probably divide the opposition over whether or not or not to put a spate and deeply unfair and unequal terms, but will result in the election of a new summer that will place the one which juan guaido emerged, so will no longer be the case that the opposition continues to control of the main institutions of government in venezuela and juan guaido therefore will not
of government in venezuela, and juan guaido therefore will not have a constitutional basis for being interim president. i feel the situation is extremely grim across every indicator that one can possibly think of. stephen: mr. bransfield? >> 20 years ago, i became deputy assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere. my portfolio, known in those days as the death portfolio, because it guarantee an annoyance for the united states senate every single day i was working and included south america, the caribbean, and cuba. on cuba, at least four days and weeks someone would come to my office and say what do you think about fidel castro? is he about to go? is he teetering? have you seen the mole on his face? is that the end? i gave my response the same way. someday, fidel castro will die. they will probably not be today. to a certain extent -- i was wrong one day, finally. that will be the same rule i would propose to apply to venezuela. ladies and gentlemen, we have read this book before. we know how it ends. we know the maduro-led chavi zta system in venezuela is not sustainable. not because god came to me in a vision and told me, but because of political, health, security, international reasons, the system cannot sustain itself over the long-term. when will it end? someday it will end. i hazard a guess that that day will not be today, but as we ponder how to deal with this, let me offer you a strategic vision that is somewhat
hardline, and you'll sense this, certainly by the lady to my right and the gentleman to my left beginning to wince and scowl and narrow their eyes as i speak. let us know, strategically, there are three fundamental objectives at play. first, the departure of nicolas maduro and his inner circle from office. the strategic objective is not elections or dialogue or a forum with multiple parties. all of those are tactical issues that should, i hope, get us, should we go down that road, to objective number one. maduro must go. maduro as the great cicero once said-- he said it about carthage but it applies to the circumstances. number two, have something ready to go once maduro and his team depart. call it d-day plus one, call it a transition to a sustainable
venezuela. there must be something out there so once you reach strategic objective number one, you don't have a hopeless cause. third strategic objective, linking the two to some extent, the humanitarian crisis that is venezuela today. in other words, it is strategic. it is not a matter of tactics, although how we manage the issue can be a matter of tactics. do you give humanitarian assistance in some places and not others? who do you select as her -- your implementers in country? all of these are tactical decisions to make which would contribute to objective one and objective two, the departure of mr. maduro and having some sort of separate preparatory work for a follow-on government or system in venezuela.
that is my opening expostulation. stephen: thank you so much. ambassador? >> let me just touch on a couple of things that, if you will, are a fairly basic point of view. what is it we know? we know maduro is still there, we know sanctions haven't worked. that is what we know. we know he continues to enjoy the support of the military and notwithstanding the effective collapse of the economy, he has sources of income which are keeping him afloat. what else do we know? we know there have been a series of efforts at dialogue and those have not yielded any concrete results to speak of. why not?
largely because the regime is prepared to talk about a good many things, but not regime change. they intend to stay there and the talking, to this point at least, has been largely a matter of creating a diversion from the reality that the maduro regime has done every thing they can to consolidate power. they have a number of allies. china, russia, cuba, notably. my own sense is china, while important to them, is inclined to carefully calibrate chinese interests. their association with them is less ideological than commercial. i think it is important to
understand that the russians are involved for a range of reasons. some economic, but some also geostrategic. they are interested in poking their fingers in our eyes. perhaps it is a way to remind us that we have been active in democracy, much to their annoyance. what else do we know? we know that effectively, venezuela is now a failed state. a failed state with an abusive, authoritarian government, and i think that from that, we can safely infer a couple of things. the problems inside of venezuela are not going to be contained by venezuela's frontier.
the problems inside the country are already spilling over, and the most evident -- persuasive evidence of that is obviously this gargantuan diaspora. how large? the second largest in the world after syria and may well eclipse syria in the next year or two if things don't change. we can conclude the suffering of the masses will not convince mr. maduro to leave, from which i conclude that we need to think beyond sanctions or approach sanctions at least differently. we need to get as many partners involved as possible. i think we need to engage in international organizations in a new and more vigorous way, but i think at the same time, we need to avoid the temptation of
trying to find some sort of modus vivendi. the continuation of power of maduro indefinitely or his associates will be bad for venezuela, bad for the region, and that for the united states. testbed -- bad for the united states. >> venezuela is undergoing the deepest economic contraction in latin american history, at least recorded latin american history. if you actually go to the work that economic historians have done with regards to the 19th century, the contraction we are seeing is deeper than the country's federal war in the 19th century. if you look at data, for example from the 21st century, it is the second deepest contraction in the 21st century in the world. number one is yemen. you do not see these types of
contractions outside of wartime. venezuela presents the problems of a wartime economy in the midst of peacetime, or there is no explicit armed conflict. it is clear to anyone who has looked at this data and analyze this phenomenon that this crisis was set off by the incompetence and corruption of the chavez and maduro regimes. you cannot deny that economic sanctions have aggravated this. by the most conservative estimates, venezuela has lost 400,000 barrels of oil through economic sanctions imposed january of this year. that is $8 billion of forgone oil revenue. the non-oil imports this year will be approximately $1 billion. we are talking an amount of money that could make a huge difference to the lives of venezuelans.
now, it is clear to me that the sanctions strategy was defined with the idea with the idea of promoting short-term regime change. the time has come to understand that is not happening, there for these policies need to be redefined. is this a plea for lifting sanctions? no, because the sanctions do something important. they take away the management of key resources from the maduro regime, but also i think it would make no sense to have that discussion. it would be a nonstarter. what it would make sense would think how sanctions could be redefined. the international community faced this question in the 1990's when it looked at iraq. it came up with the food program. you could say that program was very bad, look at the corruption, and stuff,
the fugitive from justice, and cyprus, and all of that. yes, that's true. but let's also look at the evidence with respect to that program. for example, as we can find in the results of the commission that was appointed by the security council to analyze what had gone wrong and what the program got right. yes, there was a loss of a massive amount of resources. $1.7 billion, which were siphoned off into other accounts of the hussein regime. it is also the case that less than 3% of the resources were managed by the system. if you look at the evidence on living standards and consumption, on health indicators, all of them improved remarkably after the food program. what we are looking at is an approach to this type of problem that have positive effects, but also have problems. let me put a parallel. there has been a massive corruption scandal in latin
america over the past few years. we do not use that to conclude that there should be no infrastructure spending in latin america, that we should not build roads and not build bridges. the argument in favor of mechanisms that mitigate venezuela's humanitarian crisis for the venezuelans is much stronger than the argument for building a road or a bridge anywhere in the region. we are talking about a country that could very well be beginning to experience a famine. the work i have been doing, and you can look at it on the organization's website, is oriented at trying to understand how we can have a humanitarian oil agreement. what i'm talking about here is the fundamental idea that you are going to need, if you want to address the problems of venezuelans today, you have two solutions. you can either tell venezuelans,
you have to wait until maduro leaves. let me tell you that message goes a lot better in washington or miami than it does in caracas . the venezuelans who are suffering through the situation believe, demand, and have the right to demand answers that are not conditional on the solution to a political crisis that we do not know and cannot tell him when it will end. venezuelans need solutions for the here and now. we've been working on a proposal to start a debate. i would love it if specialist would look at it. is on our website. if they could find things that are wrong with it, because what we need to do is refocus the discussion on how we can help venezuelans in the here and now, and how we can protect vulnerable venezuelans from the collateral effect of the political crisis. stephen: thank you. doctor, you've been monitoring human rights issues in the
region for a while. how should a future interim venezuelan government deal with the abuses of the bolivarian regimes and the abuses that continue to take place in venezuela? >> an important question given the scale of human rights abuses and number of people imprisoned for what should be seen as legitimate political activity, the u supporter, the death of people in torture. the use of repression and massive arrests, and the main human rights organization that works with political prisoners has documented the cycles of this oppression beginning in 2014 where there were mass protests, and it is very clear this is part of a strategy by the government to discourage
people from going into the dealing with human rights abuses as part of the transition are probably the most difficult, both moral and political issue of any kind of transition, whether it is a transition from war to peace as in colombia or from authoritarianism to democracy in chile for argentina or uraguay. a lot of what is ethical is simply not possible because of the constellation of power. for example, in chile, general pinochet remained commander of the armed forces. during the democratic transition, and it was only decades later that through
international mechanisms, he began the process of being brought to justice. i think we have to think in our heads very coldly about what is desirable from an ethical and moral sense, and what might be possible politically and a lot of it will depend on how it is that the transition in venezuela takes place, what the role is, say, of junior officers within the military in removing senior officials, and i think there is also another important distinction between -- they are related, but let's try to at least keep some kind of clarity on this. a difference between those who have been responsible for and deeply involved in massive corruption, given the military's control of virtually every key sector of the economy, whether agricultural or mining oil, transport ports. the concentration of wealth that
has been stolen from the venezuelan people and the people who have actually designed and implemented the strategy of abuse against civilians, and that smaller category of people should really be the focus and there are lots of models in the world, lots of countries that have gone through transitions. south africa had its model, others had truth commissions and transitional government -- justice courts. what it will look like in venezuela will really be a product of the residual power of the armed forces during the process of transition. stephen: do you think there is a case to be made for crimes against humanity for maduro and his core, and should the responsibility for significant violations be a bargaining chip we can use to get them to transition?
cynthia: well, i'm not sure how easily one can claim that maduro himself is responsible for crimes against humanity. i would put it more in terms of the director of intelligence services or of prisons that have overseen the torture and death of civilians or have ordered troops in the street to open fire with live ammunition on unarmed demonstrators. there are a number of cases, as have been brought before the international court. i'm not sure i see that as a useful bargaining chip because the principle of accountability would suggest that you don't bargain that away, and you can never guarantee that a case will not be brought before international judges. you cannot make them party to this kind of transition, but you can definitely impact the way
venezuela's institutions would deal with the criminality of the regime in a post-transition era. stephen: you were in bassett are in both venezuela and colombia where you saw firsthand the close relationship between the elm and other is admitted terrorist organizations. what recommendations would you have for the government and friends and neighbors of columbia for dealing with these terrorist organizations? >> well, core and key country in this regard is columbia, since that is the target of the entire elm leadership and the reconstituted units of the -- the farq.
the colombian administration does not want to be seen as responsible for military provocation or challenge at the border and yet, the problem or at least the heart of the problem lies 10 or 100 or several hundred kilometers inside venezuelan territory, from which these organizations then mount operations into and directed against the government of colombia and its constituent parts. it is tricky. i am comfortable, i am retired now, comfortable throwing out ideas that cause some people a degree of concern. i have been heard to say publicly a number of times, what surprises me right now is not the people are talking about some sort of military component
to a solution here, but rather that such a component has not already started when one calculates -- my number is about 5 million venezuelans who have fled their country and now have refugee status. the overwhelming majority of whom are in south america and probably an absolute majority are -- particularly in the two neighboring countries of venezuela, colombia and brazil, and of that 5 million, drop it down to 2.5 million, perhaps 10% have some military or security force experience in venezuela before they fled as refugees. are there not several thousand who have scores to settle? either not several thousand who come from border cities and towns?
with surprises me is that this hasn't already happened and people aren't already sliding back into venezuela, if nothing else, to settle old scores and old accounts. finally, since i've lost the missile, let me suggest it has a variety of warheads and the military option does not necessarily mean in 2019. it is not 10,000 marines landing on the beach and starting to march up to the palace in caracas. a military option could, for example, be a determination to establish a humanitarian dmz, in his own, say, two kilometers by two kilometers at one or more border checkpoints. i don't know, somewhere further up north in northwestern state, or even someplace like the port. that is a military option because you basically are
saying, an international force will guarantee that venezuelan armed security forces that respond to the leadership of nicolas maduro wilma enter this zone, and inside this zone, idp's the left alone, humanitarian organizations can move their product and supplies, medicine, health care, food, some form of shelter can be provided. that a military option, and i do wish to suggest, as we are talking about military organizations, the elm, if i am allowed to range wider than that, the revolutionary guard corps, or hezbollah and elements within venezuela, these are military forces of some nature, and the truth is, the military
option to a certain extent is already in play. stephen: ambassador, when you were ambassador in venezuela, you saw the challenges of dealing with a divided opposition. right now, there are more or less united. what are the chances and what should we be doing to try to keep it that way once there is a transition and we have a call for elections nine months or a year out? patrick: well, in point of fact, the divisions within the opposition, it seemed to me when i was there were significant, if only because the opposition was made up in large part by parties which had been competing with one another for decades. the remarkable thing about the emergence of juan guaido is that
his position has been so widely recognized by both the international community and the traditional political parties as well as several of the newer parties that have emerged since 1998 when chavez was elected. insofar as he represents and is recognized as legitimate authority, making sure he enjoys some of the resources that might otherwise have gone to the government, that we and others can affect will be very important. one of the questions you asked cynthia and this has to do with the military, he called for an
uprising. that effort ran aground, and i think it is important to understand why. over the years, first chavez and then maduro, brought military people into many of the functions of government, including critical economic functions, making them complicit both in the failures of the regime but also in its corruption, and i think going forward, one of the dilemmas that even trying to establish a humanitarian dmz or safe spaces for the delivery of humanitarian aid, need to understand that in addition to profoundly corrupt elements of the military, you have these other players
including the cubans, for whom the survival of the maduro regime may be viewed as an existential matter. they are still getting a very significant amount of effectively free oil from venezuela to this day, and so as we contemplate alternatives in the near term, and i think we need to understand that just sanctions are not going to change the situation on the ground, we also need to understand that there are going to be those inside of venezuela who will be very, very determined to resist change and to defend the regime. stephen: one of the lessons we think we have learned from iraq is to avoid the
of the armedation forces. how do you manage that in the what you just said, where you have drug running organizations, criminal organizations that compose large parts of the leadership of the venezuelan military? patrick: that is both a legitimate question and important matter to be decided. something i've argued in the past is that even as we proceed with applications, certain categories of sanctions and mount efforts to provide humanitarian relief, i think we have to at least contemplate the construction of the kind of offramp for certain elements of the regime. this will be satisfactory for many people because it means virtually by definition that some people are going to get away with some of their crimes. what that will look like and who would be included is another matter, but what we do know is
that so long as the regime continues to have the support of the military and key people within the regime think if they lose power, they go to jail, they are going to be pretty determined to hang on to the reins of government. stephen: francisco, you have been doing economic and development work most of your adult life and you have seen the tremendous downfall of the venezuelan economy, mismanagement and all. what are the top three things the interim government should do to convince international financial institutions to open up their vaults to significant funding? how do you advise multinational corporations about what the
elements are that they need to be seeing them they make significant investment in rebuilding their previous assets and positions in venezuela? francisco: it is a complex question because the question cannot be made in the model of transition. transition can occur in many ways. we can have a messy transition, negotiated transition, we could have a regime collapse. maybe one day maduro and everyone with him gets in one plane, two or three and they leave, and you do have the space for rebuilding venezuela with less constraints but it is also perfectly possible that with all the international pressure we have, the government accepts a presidential election maduro loses, but within a framework
where you would deal with the existing supreme court until a 12-year terms of those justices run out. that is a different model. you can frame all the economic policy you want, but you will have to deal with constitutional issues as interpreted by the current venezuelan constitution or chamber of the supreme court. to give one example of the type of difficulties. venezuela's collapse has been engineered by people. not for good reasons. for very bad reasons, corruption and mismanagement, but it is essentially a problem of incompetence. it is a problem of corruption, and it is a product of political conflict that has spilled over into the economic arena. the good news about that is that means it can be solved. venezuela is sitting on 300 billion barrels of oil reserve. fortunately it cannot be stolen.
the stuff is there. what this means is you have huge potential for recovery. what you need to do, the first point, you need to run this oil and this wealth. there has been talk about resources, and these numbers get bigger. we started at 30 billion, 60 billion, then 200 billion. it is wrong to think about how much money venezuela needs. a lot of what should happen should be done by markets. if the oil industry needs $200 billion, extract that oil from underground and markets will provide it, or it is not profitable in which case the oil is better left in the ground. a strong case can be made that
it is profitable. what we need to do is not necessarily -- and other countries will need financing needs -- but i do not think that should be the focus of attention. the focus of attention is how do we reform property rights to give adequate guarantees to investors to get them to invest in venezuela and its oil sector and its retail sector and its mining. to allow this economy to unlock the potential and productive capacity of venezuelans. venezuelans are tremendously entrepreneurial people. we see it in migrant immunities. venezuelans need a government that protects their right to maintain what they earn with their effort. this is the opposite of what they have done, and what destroyed the venezuelan
economy. the venezuelan economy can be rebuilt if we understand the starting point for the rebuilding is to create a transparent and inclusive market economy. if you do that, then the rest will be easy, including adding financing from capital markets. if you do not do that, if you believe property rights are not relevant, if you want a state that is intervening and deciding who it is that will get such and such contract, or who is that will get paid such and such a debt, if you have nontransparent rules, no one will want to invest in this country, and you can end up with money from multilateral's wasted. we have to focus on the basics, building a transparent and
inclusive market economy. stephen: one of the challenges to do that is to recover the brain drain the country has seen, and not just the intellectual class in the professional class but also the engineer that knows where the keys work to turn the pipes to make the water flow in the right direction at different times of day. how do you entice that part of the diaspora that has gone on and reestablished their new entrepreneurial business in bogota? if you go to bogota, you see that with the drivers. how do you convince them to come back until you are passed that period of transition?
it will be difficult to pull off. francisco: it has several components, definitely legal security. if you bring back the entrepreneurial talent am you have to protect their property rights. you have to have a state that does not act arbitrarily or favor some, but according to transparent rules. i think there is space for policies for the return of migrants. you can have tax exemptions, subsidies, there are even basic things such as the recognition of studies abroad in terms of being able to carry out certain types of profession in venezuela. i believe there is a lot of microlevel thinking that can be done in terms of fostering this
return of migration or brain drain. but i would again emphasize that what these people would need to be enticed to return is a well functioning and stable democracy, and market economy but it also means personal security and a stable system in which a credible government has been reached among the parts relevant for it. that means we have to think about what is going to make venezuela stable. this is going to be a tricky transition. there are going to be many factors. you will have to deal with the military. there are 300 mayors elected in the last election, the last municipal election. you also have 17 governors, most of which were elected in 2017.
they are a political reality, and it is a reality you have to contend with. what i think we have to understand is if we do not deal with that reality by creating an inclusive democracy, and find a way for them to be incorporated into a contemporary venezuelan society, it will not be a stable country. it is a country that could run the risk. i am not going to be the bearer of good news when i tell you today to my regret the most popular politician in venezuela is not juan guaido. it is hugo chavez. if you do not build a model that takes into account, if you believe you can deny the reality
that millions of venezuelans felt represented by chavez, and speaking to policies and as a person who wrote an article in 2008 on anti-revolution, there is a political reality and if you do not incorporate them into the building you will be facing worse problems than what are faced now by other countries in the region that have to tackle the issue of the populace are back. stephen: we will open up to the audience now. i would like to invite the members to ask their questions, and remind you that this is on the record. please wait for the microphone and speak directly into it.
state your name and affiliation. this is for questions, so please keep them concise, so we do not have to pull out the hook. yes sir. >> i am from "the washington post." cynthia, you talked about the possibility of national assembly elections next year as a way in which the regime will consolidate its control and manage to sideline guaido. i would like to ask you and other members of the panel, did you see no way in which way that could be a solution to the crisis? is there no way negotiations could lead to a fair national assembly election if the opposition would win?
some members think they can make that happen. cynthia: i am skeptical that there is that route, but it is not impossible. the decision early in the opposition not participating had disastrous affects. there are solid grounds for people in favor of participation to talk to people in the opposition or not interested in participating under the restrictive conditions that will be established to go ahead. it is not impossible that they could win those elections. i am not sure i can look into my crystal ball and say after the collapse of negotiations brokered by norway, there is an ongoing table of negotiations with a small number of opposition parties with former members of the military. they may also be able to get the government to do certain things. without fundamental reform of the electoral council, without international observation, these elections will be very
restrictive. what happened in 2018 the presidential election is likely to be intensified, which is that the stations for renewing the card that allows you to obtain the food subsidies right next to the polling booths, and it sent a not-so-subtle message that your subsequent welfare depends on how you vote. and since it is an electronic voting system, there could be wider skepticism that the vote is secret. i am not saying it is impossible. if the opposition remains invited and you put forth credible candidates, it could very well win. i predict it will not.
because i think the lesson maduro learned is that can never happen. elections were a way of using legitimizing, this that and the other as affirming loyalty to the chavista project. once the opposition started winning, the rules got more difficult. not impossible, but unlikely is the way i would see it. stephen: yes ma'am. >> my question is about the president of the revolutionary guard in venezuela. what is their involvement? are they involved in the economy?
are they training the military? the revolutionary guard. one of the speakers mentioned the revolutionary guard. do they have such a big presence? are they involved in helping smuggle oil out? >> i bringing up the issue, let me take a crack at a response. the straightforward answer to the question is, we do not know. this includes everyone in this room. we do not know because there has been zero transparency on this issue in venezuela since at least august of 2004. that is when i arrived in caracas as the united states ambassador. that is a useful point for me to
note one set of hard data. when i arrived in mid-2004 in caracas, the iranian embassy to venezuela had eight people listed on the diplomatic list as the embassy of iran. when i departed three years later, there were 49 names on that list. about a 500% increase in the size of the embassy. presumably they are doing something. among what they are doing is serving as intelligence liaisons and security liaisons. between the government of iran and maduro. i have been informed that they have a permanent presence in several locations outside of caracas.
and i have been led to believe they have a permanent presence. i have been informed that as there is little known about what the irtc is doing, there is less known about what the component is doing in venezuela, but a clear connection between those institutions to the extent they are doing anything at all. are they providing some sort of security and intelligence report to the nicolas maduro regime? i assume so. are they expanding or supporting whatever programs they are trying to support outside of venezuela? i do not know. it would not be inconceivable. i would suggest -- i do not work
for the united states government any longer -- but i would suggest we pay attention to this, not as the most important threat united states and the world, but a threat that is somewhat close to home built into an infrastructure that has for 150 years fairly fluid and easy movement between the region and the united states of america. that is the best answer i can give to you at this point right now. >> i think there was a moment particularly as oil began to spike, and as president chavez looked to consolidate his position in which he courted iran, and they courted him under the general rubric of creating a front in a sense to disperse the challenge to the united states, making it broader and not
restricted to a couple of countries. as we attempted through sanctions to affect iran, there was some speculation -- i do not know that it was ever demonstrated then -- they were working together to help iran avoid the consequences of those sanctions. is that true? i am frankly not sure. the venezuelan economy has effectively disintegrated. the utility of that relationship, the economics part of it at least it seems to me
has also receded. stephen: gentlemen in the back table. >> i am from "business insider." the u.s. military has not said much about what it is asked to do, but they are planning for the day after. i wanted to ask in that scenario when the transition starts and maduro is gone, what role could the u.s. military play, and do you think the military -- what should the military not be asked to do in that situation? >> you want to hock to start, then turn it over to anyone else. it is a future question, but it is a question that someday -- and it is not likely today -- but some day we and international community will have to answer. first, let us remember there is
in fact today an individual and a group of people that that individual has appointed to positions that have the recognition -- i believe the number is 55 governments around the world as a legitimate constitutional interim transitional government president of the republic of venezuela. in accordance with the venezuelan constitution, written and promulgated by hugo chavez in 1999-2000, stated should the office of president become vacant, then the president of the national assembly shall assume that office until such time as new elections can be scheduled. the national assembly did declare that the office was vacant, they did elect juan
guaido as the president of the national assembly. qed, therefore we have the obligation to recognize that that fundamental decision must be made or endorsed by that individual himself or whoever might be the interim president at that point in time. i do acknowledge the likelihood -- depending on how, as francisco was saying -- if it is a negotiated and consensual transition, then perhaps there is less requirement for some international security or stabilization force in country to provide basic law and order for the shortest period of time possible until such time as a
reduced international force that looks more regional and less global, and then finally venezuelans can provide that service. if it is a complete collapse, complete disorder, a tremendous amount of violence on the streets, then whatever force would have to be more muscular and have visibly a different mission set and set of rules of engagement. southcom, which is an intelligent organization and good at these sorts of things, because unlike virtually all of the other specified geographic military commands, this is largely what they have been doing during the 75 years of their existence. they do not do big wars like centcom does. they do not prepare for massive global confrontation like in europe, they do not try to manage half the countries in the world like the pacific command.
what they do in a limited area is minimum military engagement possible in order to a complex whatever the mission may be. i do not know how this will play out. admiral fowler would be guilty of professional negligence if he were not doing some advancement planning in this regard. my hope would be the guidance he has given to his people is, let's plan on something that has the minimum military footprint possible to accomplish the mission as the set of scenarios would suggest the nation will be. that would be my hope, but i am not the commander of the u.s. southern command at this time, nor do i expect to be. cynthia: i would like to put it in a slightly different context. william: because you are not a warmongering hawk. cynthia: i do not doubt there is
speculation as to a role, but i would prefer not to get into the different theoretical scenarios. one principle that would be important is that it not be a uf force but a multilateral force. there are examples of the stabilization missions that have been in el salvador and haiti, these are multilateral troops regardless of whether the united states has a significant role. but to back up, a lot, as we know, a lot of discourse in washington has focused on this phrase of all options being on the table. i think it is a way to say to the military, keep them off
balance -- to say to the venezuelan regime, we might intervene. without real question is what sorts of military options are under discussion? i have every reason to believe they are under active discussion in order to bring about a regime transition. i do not think there is anybody contemplating an invasion. massive numbers of boots on the ground. there were rumors there is planning for a naval blockade for surgical strikes to take out maduro or other members of the high command. the question i have about that as i do about sanctions -- and i agree with most of what francisco said, but not everything -- the question is what is the political strategy after the date you do those military things? the logic until now has been, you squeeze and squeeze and press and press, and the whole thing collapses like a house of cards. if anything, the opposite has
been true. it has created greater coherence and a sense of common threat. i do not deny there is planning for military options. i think the most benign is the one ambassador brownfield has mentioned, that we have enormous consequences, give enormous relief to the countries neighboring venezuela that are being overwhelmed by migrants. to treat people and give them the possibility for survival within venezuela. then my question is, if that seems simple, how is the colombian guerrilla force likely to respond to that? they are all over venezuela. most accounts are they are in control of the gold-mining and the gold trade. they are in border regions, involved in every aspect of the
criminal economy along the border. some elements of the demobilized farc are there. people are going to sit back and allow u.s. troops to carve out a safe zone? without responding within columbia, in major cities, putting bombs like the kind we saw in january when the terrorist attack was staged against the police academy, killing almost 100 cadets. these cannot be considered in a vacuum, and i caution against thinking too easily about military solutions. patrick: let me emphasize then as whale over the last 20 years and increasingly violent place.
according to some measures, caracas has the highest homicide rate of any capital in the world. and there are multiple elements aligned with the government which are armed and engaged in criminal activity and prone to violence. obviously the armed forces continues to support the government. to some degree, the national guard is a separate entity. then there are groups of collectivos which are gangs of vigilante like organizations which support the government politically through intimidation and sometimes violence directed at the opposition, but are engaged in other criminal activities. this is in addition to the farc, the cubans, deployed or disseminated across the country.
it is at least reasonable to assume both in the process of transition and following the transition that there is going to be a problematical level of violence. people are not simply going to surrender their weapons. collectivos are not going to line up to be prosecuted. what role will the u.s. military be where there are large concentrations of venezuelans with differing backgrounds? that remains to be seen. i hope they are thinking carefully about how they will manage this, because at a minimum and to come back to something i alluded to earlier, this may feel very much like a failed state situation, and
there will be fiefdoms and violent groups in different parts of the country, and restoring the rule of law is going to be a major challenge, and may in fact be the keying necessary precondition to bringing in others to rebuild the economy. >> my question is for mr. rodriguez. how should we compare the policies of the chinese and the russian governments in their policies toward venezuela? francisco: how should we compare them? well, first of all i think it is important to put them in their proper dimension. while it is true there has been a substantial amount of lending from china, much less by russia,
the outstanding amount of those loans are not all that large. they are of relevant magnitude, around $15 billion, you would have another $8 billion, but you are talking about $170 billion in debt. most of this debt is with bondholders, banks, and creditors. the role that is played from an economic standpoint right now by russia and china is actually limited. partly limited because there has been broad ranging discussion in which they did not feel there were the conditions for them to go into the country at a greater scale.
if maduro had decided to open up more broadly the oil to them. or, to give them the steelmaker. some of them were difficult to reach, and right now, are essentially impossible to implement. i think that at the level of foreign policy there is a difference in two approaches. i believe that there is a strictly economic interest of the chinese, and that actually means that the chinese have a lot to gain. they have a lot to gain for having a more well-managed oil industry, from having action where they can command and try and take advantage of the opportunities are are for the extraction of mineral resources and refined countries all over the region that are reaching agreements with the chinese.
i think that the temer just a chinese are going to be part of the picture or feel that they can be part of the picture, and therefore it is easier to get them into this discussion. in the case of russia i think there is a foreign policy component, and also a very specific issue where they want to help maduro and show himself as a very strong ally. there is a complex geopolitical map, that i would again say that i do not think that the problem is that they have a huge amount of economic influence. their role is very important and it is in allowing maduro
currently to continue to export oil. after the august 5 executive order, which effectively consolidated into a regulation threat of secondary sanctions. what you saw immediately is that the china national drilling company said we would not be exposed to those sanctions and we will start buying that oil. in effect, you see that in august and set timber, storage facilities were filled because they could not find clients. china did not want to buy for them and india had issues. they could find tankers. what has happened is that oil production has increased, some of those backlogs have been cleared. a company is working together with china that is actually defined to avoid u.s. secondary
sanctions. they are concerned about secondary sanctions. what they have done is that they are no longer buying oil from venezuela. it is being bought directly from chinese refiners who have less of a risk to run because they have no involvement in the u.s.. there is a sense in which, and i think it is important to understand that when this happens, if one has to hazard a prediction to what will occur in the future, and what i want to emphasize is that the problem is not the involvement of the chinese and russians until 2018, it is the role they will play now. because if they are maduro's only lifeline to international oil markets then maduro will rely on them and they will wants to have that connection.
it is going to work for both types of factors. this is even going back to the question of iran. the most important way in which iran is having an influence is by showing that the maduro regime is doing what it needs to do to evade sanctions. doing very simple things like turning off the transponders on the tankers. what i think we need to prepare for is that if we map out the scenario in the next one to three years, and the political status quo continues, i would expect that maduro, with the help of the chinese and russians will learn to live with sanctions. therefore, a continuation of this approach may eventually end up eating for another reason because it does not matter that much to maduro. >> unfortunately that ends our time. i will ask you to thank our guests and thank you for being
>> watch the c-span network live this week as the house intelligence committee holds the first public impeachment hearing. the committee will hear from three state department officials .tarting wednesday on c-span3 top diplomat in ukraine, william taylor and secretary of state george kent will testify. on friday on c-span2, former u.s. ambassador to ukraine will appear before the committee. the head of the hearing will witness testy