Venezuela’s president has summoned imagery from the long standoff between Cuba and the United States to respond to the announcement this week by two major American companies that they were pulling out of Venezuela.
President Nicolás Maduro blamed the Obama administration of trying to create “financial blockade” around the country, as Citigroup announced its plan to close certain Venezuelan government foreign currency accounts in the next 30 days and as Kimberly-Clark, maker of Huggies diapers and Cottonelle, said it would close manufacturing plants there.
Venezuela is on the verge of economic collapse, and items such as diapers and toilet paper are in short supply.
Experts predicted that more American companies are likely to cease operations in the country.
“Do you think they’re going to stop us with a financial blockade? No, gentlemen, this is a different world. Nobody stops Venezuela,” Maduro said during a meeting at the Miraflores Presidential Palace. “With Citibank or without Citibank, we’ll continue. With Kimberly or without Kimberly, we will continue.”
Cuba calls the U.S. embargo against the island nation a “blockade.”
Do you think they’re going to stop us with a financial blockade? No, gentlemen, this is a different world. Nobody stops Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
Cuba and Venezuela have long promoted a narrative that frames them as victims of U.S. aggression. Maduro called the Citibank and Kimberly-Clark decisions part of the “new imperialist inquisition” orchestrated by the Obama administration.
“Sadly, I don’t believe they will be the last to depart as Venezuela melts down, making eventual economic recovery much more distant and harder to do,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Washington-based Council of the Americas.
Citigroup is the oldest international bank operating in Venezuela. Bank officials said they alerted the United States government to their decision, but the U.S. government did not direct or suggest the move.
A Citigroup official said the bank performed a recent risk assessment and concluded that continuing to operate in Venezuela presented “reputational risks.” But the official, who spoke under a grant of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the decision publicly, declined to provide details, citing U.S. financial regulations.
The bank said in a statement it was continuing to talk to the Maduro administration “to address its concerns.” It did not say what those concerns were.
Officials at Kimberly-Clark did not respond to request for comment. The Irving, Texas-based company manufactures a wide-range of personal care products, including diapers, toilet paper and Kleenex tissues.
It’s more in the long line of long-term, blue chip investors who have found business conditions in Venezuela unworkable and have elected to cut their losses after trying everything to ride out the crisis.
Eric Farnsworth, Council of the Americas
Venezuelan labor minister Oswaldo Vera said the government would take over the Kimberly-Clark factory after the company said it was no longer possible to manufacture goods because of the country’s economic crisis.
“Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all of the Venezuelans,” Vera announced from the factory surrounded by some its workers.