Bolton: Some of Maduro's Generals Have Made Contact With Opposition

January 28, 2019

National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday that some generals in the Venezuelan military have made contact with supporters of Venezuela's National Assembly, whose leader, Juan Guaidó, named himself interim president in opposition to socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro.

"Our assessment based on numerous contacts on the ground is that the rank and file of the Venezuelan military is acutely aware of the desperate economic conditions in the country," Bolton told reporters at a White House press briefing. "We think they look for ways to support the National Assembly government. We think the junior officer ranks and the mid-level officer ranks are the same."

"We're also aware of significant contacts between general officers of the Venezuelan military and supporters of the National Assembly," Bolton added. "So you may have seen a statement last week by the defense minister, Vladimir Padrino, flanked by a number of generals in uniform. What they didn't know was how many of them were already talking to the National Assembly."

Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced new sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA. The company's subsidiary, Citgo, which is based in the United States, is allowed to continue operations, but its earnings must be placed in a blocked account.

According to Bolton, the new sanctions will block $7 billion of PDVSA's  assets, "plus over $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year."

Bolton also noted that "all options are on the table" for addressing Venezuela's political crisis.

Venezuela is in the midst of a constitutional crisis involving Maduro—who this month was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela's president following an election that dozens of countries, including the United States, called a sham—and Guaidó, who declared himself president last week.

The United States, Canada, and several Latin American countries have recognized Guaidó as Venezuela's legitimate leader, while Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, and a few other countries have stood with Maduro. On Saturday, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain said they would recognize Guaidó if Maduro refuses to call new elections within eight days.