In the wicked world of Washington, one principle for the amalgamation of power is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Many political powers have been built on the advantageous selection of enemies. For the affliction of enemies, a lot of political money can be raised.
For the impressive rise of Mauricio Claver-Carone, a Florida lobbyist, the First Enemy, the reliable meal-ticket was Fidel Castro. By the time the Trump Administration arrived in Washington, Castrophobia was fading, bumped from the top spot on the Latin-American enemies list by Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. Wherever he was placed in Trumpworld, the Treasury Department, the IMF and the Latin America chair at the National Security Council, Claver-Carone let everyone know where he stood on Maduro.
OK, I’ll admit, Maduro is an easy guy to dislike: stupid, stubborn, brutal and corrupt; he’s been terrible for Venezuela. And I join in wishing Venezuela was led by someone else. And I can see why a guy with a fast track across the Treasury and State Department and the National Security Council would try financial, diplomatic and political pressure to achieve that goal.
Except that in all three areas, his anti-Maduro campaign has proved enmity is just a posture, not a policy. Take the bright idea that became Trump Administration policy in 2019 to end an exemption to sanctions against countries or companies doing oil deals with the Madurai regime.
The exemption allowed foreign oil companies to swap diesel fuel for Venezuelan crude. The reason for the exemption is, the imported diesel is used mostly for local buses and farm tractors and sanctioning it would hurt almost exclusively the poorest Venezuelans. In the judgment of most Venezuela experts, making Uncle Sam the diesel denier is morally questionable and politically counterproductive with most Venezuelan people. But to Mauricio Claver-Carone, the exemption was a gift to an enemy. It had to go. It went, and right now, progressive Democrats are pressing President Biden to restore it ASAP.
But, even a blind pig in Trumpworld could root out that Maduro was small potatoes compared to the enemy of all enemies — China. So, Claver-Carone used Maduro to antagonize China with a diplomatic insult. He insisted that China allow someone representing Juan Guaido, the handsome, brave young politician the U.S. has backed as the alternative to Maduro as president of Venezuela, to be part of that country’s delegation at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Chengu.
China refused because they support the Maduro regime. So Claver-Carone pressured the IDB into canceling the meeting. Take that, China. But in the waning days of his administration, Trump promoted Mauricio Claver-Carone one more time. He made him the head of the Inter-American Development Bank, where Claver-Carone has made clear his mission is — as always — smite the enemy. But the IDB is a multi-national institution and for many of the nations of the Americas, China’s not an enemy, but their number one trading partner.
When it comes to Mauricio Claver-Carone and China — the enmity is mutual. Our guest today, Associated Press Correspondent for Latin America, based in Miami, recently broke a story suggesting that China used a cyberattack on the IDB to signal how it felt about Claver-Carone and the cancellation in Chengdu.
Joshua Goodman, The Associated Press’ Latin America correspondent based in Miami.