venezuela protestor Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Why Did Trump Accept Venezuela’s Money?

Barack Obama’s administration took a principled stand on Venezuela, by imposing sanctions to rein in rogue behavior. Donald Trump, by contrast, had no qualms about taking a half-million-dollar donation for his inauguration festivities from a country whose government is driving its people to the brink of starvation.

CAMBRIDGE – There is a certain irony in recent news that Venezuela donated a half-million dollars to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration through Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state-owned oil company. Venezuela, of course, is a serial defaulter, having done so more times than almost any other country over the last two centuries.

Recently, Venezuela’s despotic socialist government has been so desperate to avoid another default (which would be the country’s 11th since independence) that it mortgaged its industrial crown jewels, including the United States-based refiner Citgo, to the Russians and the Chinese. (The Citgo brand is especially famous in my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, where the company’s iconic sign has become a landmark in the environs of Fenway Park, where the Red Sox baseball team plays.)

It is not exactly clear why Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is so desperate to avoid defaulting on the country’s foreign debt that he is starving his own people, much the way Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu did in the 1980s. With such severe shortages of food and basic medicines, there is little doubt that if and when the autocrat is finally deposed, there will be some eerily familiar horror stories.

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