The Cable

Global Firms Sell Venezuelan Operations as DJ Maduro Criticizes Obama

President Nicolás Maduro will not hold early elections, but he will spin salsa tunes.

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 28:  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro checks his watch as he speaks to the media following a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015 in New York City. Maduro is in New York to speak with the UN about his country's escalating border dispute with Guyana.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 28: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro checks his watch as he speaks to the media following a meeting with UN chief Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York on July 28, 2015 in New York City. Maduro is in New York to speak with the UN about his country's escalating border dispute with Guyana. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Things are not going well in Venezuela. But that Venezuela is fraught with corruption, that the government and military are violently pushing back against those who would see President Nicolás Maduro removed from power, and that public health and hunger are quickly worsening — this is not news.

What is news, however, is that this week, Maduro seemed to signal he cares most of all to maintain his grip on power — and that multinational business firms do not see that as a profitable way forward.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that General Mills and five other firms, have sold their Venezuela operations “for as little as half their assessed value on the companies’ books.” The move will all but certainly further isolate Venezuela’s already crumbling economy.

Maduro has refused responsibility for the country’s economic climate. Instead, he blamed the United States — specifically, the ever-unpopular “Washington elites.” Just this past Sunday, Maduro used his weekly television program not only to refuse to hold early elections, but also to call on U.S. President Barack Obama to revoke an executive order from March 2015 declaring a national emergency due to the “unusual and extraordinary threat” that Venezuela poses for U.S.  national security and foreign policy. The executive order contained targeted sanctions intended to bolster a 2014 U.S. law defending human rights and civil society in Venezuela.

It is unclear why Maduro chose this past Sunday to urge Obama once again to revoke the order. But so, too, is it unclear why, with his country in turmoil, Maduro has taken up a second career as a salsa DJ.

Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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