venezuela – the graft

How Rick Scott became Big Oil’s point man on Venezuelan regime change
Dan Cohen, Grayzone, Jun 25 2019

While Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio have helped drive the Trump administration’s maximum pressure-style campaign against Venezuela, Rubio’s counterpart, Senator Rick Scott, has been every bit as fanatical about regime change in Caracas. Speaking to a packed house of former government officials, oil executives, and lobbyists at a Jun 20 Atlantic Council event entitled “Russian Influence in Venezuela: What Should Pindostan Do?,” Scott launched into a tirade against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Scott declared:

There is clearly genocide happening in Venezuela right now! Tens of thousands are dead, and it’s clearly genocide and it’s in our hemisphere!

Scott wasn’t referring to the tens of thousands of Venezuelans that have died as a result of the crippling Pindo sanctions regime since 2017. He was pointing instead at Venezuela’s president. Scott bellowed:

We are watching little children like my grandson Eli starve to death, intentionally! And there is one person that’s primarily responsible for it, and his name is Nicolás Maduro! … I think we have to be very clear, whether it’s Pres Putin, Pres Xi or the Castro regime or Iran, they are part of killing little children!

In Aug 2017, as Pindostan launched the opening salvo of its economic assault on Venezuela, Pindo oil and gas corporations who poured huge sums into Scott’s electoral campaign colluded in an attempt to suffocate the country’s energy sector. At the same time Scott, whose oil-heavy investment portfolio stood to grow as a result of the prospective coup, led the way in the halls of power in Faschingstein. Scott’s donors in big oil have a clear interest in toppling Venezuela’s government. Since 2007, when Pres Hugo Chávez nationalized the assets of Venezuela’s national oil company, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA), companies like ExxonMobil have been cut out of the country’s market. Chávez thundered that year on his weekly TV show Alo Presidente:

They will never rob us again, those bandits of Exxon Mobil! They are imperialist bandits, white collar criminals, corruptors of governments, over-throwers of governments, who supported the invasion and bombing of Iraq and continue supporting the genocide in Iraq!

Rex Tillerson, who was CEO of Exxon Mobil at the time, sued Venezuela in international arbitration court, demanding the full $10b in lost assets. Tillerson was initially awarded $1.6b, but the compensation was reduced to approximately $188m before a Pindo appeals court blocked the award altogether. In 2017, Tillerson became Trump’s first Sec State and initiated the administration’s push for regime change in an apparent attempt at revenge. When Rick Scott launched his first campaign for Florida governor, he relied on heavy donations from the same US-based oil titans seeking to retake Venezuela’s oil wealth. As the wealthiest person to serve as Florida’s governor, Scott also dipped into his $500m family fortune to fund his campaign. But those assets were also heavily tied up in oil industry investments. During his 2018 campaign for the Senate, Scott raked in tens of thousands of dollars from oil and gas industry political action committees, many of which had previously been customers of Venezuela’s national PDVSA oil company. FEC records show Scott received $7,500 from Marathon Oil Corporation in 2018 through its PAC. Marathon had long anticipated the rounds of sanctions against Venezuela and had weaned itself off of the country’s crude in preparation. Prior to the Jan 2019 sanctions that made importing fuel from PDVSA illegal, Marathon slashed its imports by 90%. Marathon CEO Gary Heminger said:

We saw this coming a long time ago. Five years ago they would have had impact.

As president of Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Cuba-born Maximo Alvarez contributed $38.5k to PACs supporting Scott’s run for Senate, while funneling a joint total of $66.2k in individual contributions with Sunshine Vice-Pres Sandra Reuss. Alvarez currently owns more than 300 gas stations in south Florida, maintaining gasoline contracts with Marathon, CITGO, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Texaco. Valero Energy Corporation was the top purchaser of Venezuelan oil until the US embargo choked off the country’s exports. When Scott ran for Senate, this oil titan’s PAC contributed $5k. Scott’s campaign bragged that companies supported Scott because of his hard-line stance against Venezuela’s leftist government.a spokesperson told Politico:

Those who contribute to the campaign do so to support his candidacy, which includes calling for an end to the Maduro regime.

Chevron’s PAC gave Rick Scott $10,000 in 2018 after it had cut Venezuelan oil imports by 27%, and Exxon’s PAC had contributed $5k to the campaign as well. Scott and his wife owned as much as $30k in Chevron stocks and $65k in ExxonMobil stocks at the time the companies were funding his campaign, putting the couple in prime position to reap profits from regime change. By 2014, Scott had a stake of $528,032 in Phillips 66. This oil giant was the fourth-largest importer of Venezuelan crude oil until 2017, and stopped importing Venezuelan oil altogether when the country was placed under embargo the following year. As governor of Florida, Scott was the driving force behind his state’s decision to prohibit investment in Venezuela in 2017. A year later, he led the charge to enshrine that measure into state law. From the Atlantic Council podium, Scott opened up the floor for new ideas on attacking Venezuela’s economy. the senator remarked, gazing out at the audience:

I tell people every day: “If you have an idea, I will see if I can make it happen.”

As the event transitioned into Q&A, a fresh-faced young Venezuelan emigre named Daniel DiMartino rose nervously from the crowd to deliver a plea for Pindostan to wage a military assault on Venezuela. DiMartino declared insistently:

I think this is just what every Venezuelan is asking right now, and I think the most important question here is what will it take from Pindostan to give a real threat of military action to free Venezuela and actually follow through on that threat?

While DiMartino sought to portray himself as an average Venezuelan, he was, in fact, a member of the hard-line Vente Venezuela opposition party founded in 2012 by María Corina Machado, one of Venezuela’s most extreme right-wing rabble-rousers, implicated in an alleged plot to assassinate Pres Maduro in 2010. This January, when the Pindo-backed coup was put into motion, Machado’s party introduced a call for the Pindo military to invoke the “R2P” doctrine, a thinly-veiled call for invasion. DiMartino is also an intern for Thug Sen Todd Young, and a regular guest on Fox News and CNN, where he implores Pindostan to invade Venezuela, just as he did at the Atlantic Council. There, his call fell on deaf ears. Former Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas lamented:

We in Pindostan don’t have a lot of public support for a military intervention in Venezuela at the moment, or anywhere else for that matter.

Farkas might have been as hawkish as anyone on the stage. She oversaw the Obama administration’s Russia policy until 2015 and proposed sending offensive weapons to far-right militias in Ukraine, a plan that was shelved until the Trump administration approved it in 2017. But even a hardliner like her understood that an invasion of Venezuela was a recipe for political and military disaster. With Maduro still entrenched in the Miraflores presidential palace and firmly in control of PDVSA, Rick Scott may have to wait a while for his Exxon stocks to skyrocket.

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