Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is actively considering asylum in Russia or Cuba as international pressure grows on his embattled regime and the country’s political crisis worsens, according to an international risk consultancy.
Texas-based Stratfor say its analysts have “received persistent reports” over the past year that Maduro “has considered asking for refuge in Russia or Cuba.”
Cuba is playing a key role in “indirect talks between Russia and the United States on Venezuela,” the consultancy said in a recently released report.
“The Russian or Cuban governments would be willing to accept the president and his wife, Cilia Flores, but not other political figures,” the Stratfor report said, citing an unnamed source.
Cuban officials were also involved with Spain in “months of negotiations,” that resulted in a decision by Maduro to release opposition Leopoldo Lopez from prison earlier this month.
The release of Lopez, was “an apparent concession to the United States,” according to Stratfor.
Maduro is facing intensifying pressure from the administration of President Trump, who this week called the Venezuelan president a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”
Trump threatened “swift economic sanctions,” if Maduro moves forward with plans to form a Constituent Assembly on July 30.
“The United States once again calls for free and fair elections and stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” he said.
Maduro’s push to form a Constituent Assembly, rejected by a majority of some 7.1 million voters in a non-binding referendum held last Sunday, would “disrupt the constitutional order in Venezuela,” according to Moises Rendon, associate director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.
“This new and handpicked assembly will claim it has the power to change and select new institutions and authorities, implement different private property laws, and rewrite the Constitution,” he wrote in a column that appeared this week on the center’s website.
“Venezuela is rapidly becoming a failed state,” Rendon told CNSNews.com.
“The institutions are not functioning, the police, the judiciary, the health sector are in a shambles.”
A failed state, Rendon said, would pose significant security risks for the U.S. because Maduro’s government and the military are deeply involved in drug trafficking and other illegal activities.
In February, the Treasury Department named Maduro’s executive vice-president, Tareck El Aissami, as a “specially designated narcotics trafficker.”
El Aissami’s associate, Lopez Bello, was also “designated for providing material assistance, financial support, or goods or services in support of the international narcotics trafficking activities of, and acting for or on behalf of, El Aissami.”
The vice-president has also been accused of running an illegal immigration scheme while head of Venezuela’s National Office of Identification, in which he issued “identity and travel documents to suspicious Arab and Iranian operatives,” according to a report released this month by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
The same report said elements of Venezuela’s government ““directly manage and support drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism financing, support for guerrilla movements, and international corruption.”
According to one of the report’s authors, visiting fellow Roger Noriega, officials within Maduro’s administration and the military involved in drug trafficking, “are pushing 20 years evading accountability.”
“The U.S. judicial system is the only thing that most of these people fear,” Noriega said.
Many would prefer to negotiate deals with US law enforcement “to avoid prosecution” for international drug crimes rather than be left exposed if the Maduro regime loses power, he said.
“There are very important figures in the government’s security apparatus who have decided to cooperate with U.S. investigators to protect themselves.”
According to the State Department’s 2017 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Venezuela is “one of the preferred trafficking routes for illegal drugs, predominately cocaine, from South America to the Caribbean region, Central America, the United States, Western Africa, and Europe.”
The U.S. has indicted a former national guard commander Gen. Nester Luis Reverol Torres, and Edylberto Jose Molina Molina, former assistant director of the country’s anti-drugs office, for conspiracy to traffic internationally in cocaine, it noted.