A World Divided: Trump and China Take Sides in Venezuela; Maduro Warns: ‘Blood’s on Your Hands’

The U.S and China have lined themselves up along either side of the ever-widening Venezuelan faultline, as Donald Trump continues to stoke the fire which rages between Nicolas Maduro and the new self-declared president Juan Guaido.

On Monday Donald Trump and his cabinet cranked up trade sanctions against the troubled Venezuelan regime, while Maduro responded in a televised broadcast by addressing Trump in English, telling him ‘Hands off Venezuela!’, and that any blood spilled would be on Trump’s hands.

With China and the U.S positioned on opposing sides of the conflict, these developments add to an already complicated relationship between the two global powers. In addition to the recent arrest of Hauwei CFO Meng Wanzhou – the daughter of Hauwei’s founder – the Chinese tech manufacturer is also being charged on U.S soil for allegedly stealing patented technology from T-Mobile US Inc.

All of this comes right on the eve of U.S-Chinese trade talks in Beijing this week, where both nations will attempt to thrash out what one CEO at Davos suggested was a forming of a ‘New World Order’.

I Drink Your Milkshake!

The U.S added to the mounting pressure being applied to the Maduro regime on Monday by putting profits from the Venezuelan state-owned oil firm, PDVSA, on ice. According to reports by Reuters, the sanctions do not forbid U.S firms from buying oil from PDVSA, however, no profits from the sales will be allowed to leave American vaults, and instead will be stored in a ‘blocked account’.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a White House briefing on Monday:

“If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as the money goes into blocked accounts we will continue to take it, otherwise will we not be buying it.”

As such, the expected counteraction from PDVSA will be to stop all shipments immediately, and already Nicolas Maduro has responded by telling the U.S to keep its hands off his country, and warned that the bodies from any resulting conflict in Venezuela would be laid firmly at Trump’s door. He said:

“Trump, you are responsible for any violence that may occur in Venezuela, it is your responsibility… The blood that can spill in Venezuela is on your hands, President Donald Trump.”

Pawns Still in Play

One major obstacle remains in play if Guaido and company wish to truly oust Maduro, and that’s the still-strong Venezuelan army. But as suggested recently by the BBC, it’s not necessarily loyalty that’s keeping Maduro’s soldiers on his side.

Senior analyst at the Brussels think-tank, International Crisis Group, told the BBC that the military’s role in affairs began to change when former president Hugo Chavez ascended to power:

“Previously the military had been more or less confined to barracks, but Chávez let them out and gave them access to cabinet posts, to control of banks and other financial services…”

This development resulted in the army gaining far more power and influence than it had had before, and, as it happens… more responsibility.

What we have now is a situation where senior officers are too scared to change sides because they know that if Maduro falls, they too will be held accountable for the human rights abuses which occurred throughout the communist dictatorship. Gunson continued:

“Parts of the military, particularly the senior officers, would like this to continue because they are making money out of it but also because they are so compromised. If your officer corps is corrupt and your intelligence people are keeping abreast of who is stealing what then you build up big files on each individual which makes it very difficult for them to change sides.”

‘Not Our Kind of Coup’

Prominent left-leaning outlet the Guardian offered an opposing view on the conflict, with University of London senior law lecturer, Oscar Guardiola-Rivera stating that the current movement by Juan Guaido amounted to little more than a coup.

This is the same publication which regularly celebrated the serial coup-artist Hugo Chavez, and is just one sign of the still-wide (and widening?) gap between the two ends of the political spectrum.

As represented in this graphic courtesy of News.com.au, this gap is making itself felt on the political stage as global powers take sides on the Guaido vs Maduro conflict. China, Russia, Iran, Mexico and Cuba have declared support for Maduro.

Most of the North American continent is joined by a majority of the South in support of Guaido, while most of the Eurozone awaits further developments before showing its hand.

What Does it Mean for Crypto?

At this early stage, not very much. One cryptocurrency is already on its way out thanks to the events in Venezuela (even though it appears someone is still collecting rewards on a Petro masternode), but the current tangled political mess could offer a grim glimpse of what awaits cryptocurrency in the future.

When the world’s economic leaders met at Davos last week to discuss, among other things, the role of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in a future economy, most of the resultant headlines focused on controversial price predictions (which drew more, and more controversial predictions in response).

But what’s the real story at the heart of the sudden influx of mainstream attention which has befallen Bitcoin, blockchain, and everything in between of late? Is it simply an honest, benevolent curiosity which drives the world’s financial institutions’ interest in crypto? Or are we witnessing the first stage of a technological coup-d’etat which sees Bitcoin become another global asset class – the kind that triggers trade sanctions, coup-d’etats and military conflicts?

This is a long way off at the moment, and crypto could very well remain a small niche for the next fifteen to twenty years if the internet’s road to adoption is anything to go by. But the only thing standing between Bitcoin and its appropriation by the global elite is, funnily enough, its success.

Disclaimer: The author owns Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Greg Thomson is a freelance writer who contributes to leading cryptocurrency and blockchain publications like CCN, Hacked, and others.