The story of regime-change brain Carlos Vecchio's rise through elite US institutions and the oil industry captures the essence of Venezuela's opposition.
May 24th was a day of hard-earned celebration for Carlos Vecchio, the man tasked with leading the Trump administration's coup attempt in Venezuela from the US capital. His face was largely obscured in the grainy Twitter video of the moment he and his gaggle leaned out of a third-story window and hoisted a brand new flag onto Venezuela's former diplomatic mission in Washington DC, but Vecchio was clearly beaming as a small crowd of supporters cheered from below.
Finally, on that swampy spring afternoon, Vecchio had arrived as Venezuela's "ambassador" to the United States. Or had he?
Vecchio's quest to illegally seize and occupy Venezuela's US embassy had been a far more arduous battle than he likely imagined. A group of anti-war activists had managed to prevent his entry for over a month by establishing a presence inside the building at the invitation of Venezuela's elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Their goal was to block Vecchio and his cohorts from taking over the premises until a diplomatic resolution regarding the mission's status could be reached.
For 31 days in April and May, the activists managed to stymie Vecchio's entry, mounting a standoff which transformed DC's affluent Georgetown neighborhood, the site of the embassy, into a frontline in the diplomatic assault against the UN-recognized Maduro government.
Vecchio's moment of glory finally arrived on May 16, thanks to three dozen federal US agents clad in night vision goggles, helmets, and flak vests, which looked as though they were gearing up for a Waco-style raid. When they barged into the embassy, arresting the four remaining activists inside, Vecchio and his team could finally lay claim to the premises. It was a symbolic victory, to be sure, but one that kept the momentum going.
Though the Western media's cameras have focused on self-declared "interim president" Juan Guaido, Vecchio was instrumental in laying the foundation for what would become the Trump administration's coup.
After going into exile in 2014, Vecchio became the brains behind Venezuela's opposition in the United States. And well before Trump took office, the smooth-talking lawyer was schmoozing with US officials and hashing out plans to achieve regime change in Caracas.
"We all know who he is already," Florida Senator Marco Rubio said of Vecchio, once the coup plot was set into motion this year.
In interviews with US media, Vecchio brands himself as a natural politician who was forced into exile due to the brutality of Venezuela's government. This narrative not only erased his hand in promoting opposition violence, but expunged key aspects of his resume which shed new light on the forces that propelled his rise to "ambassador" of a US-appointed coup regime.
Vecchio's career did not start in the rough and tumble of Venezuela's political scene, but instead with a promising career in the oil industry. Indeed, Vecchio entered the political arena in 2007 only after Hugo Chavez successfully drove out ExxonMobil, his employer at the time. For years, Vecchio had been leading Exxon's legal fight against the Chavez government.
This revealing detail has been curiously omitted in his interviews with sympathetic US outlets, and was mentioned only briefly in his autobiography. Yet it is critical to understanding Vecchio's emerging role, especially as Guaido flounders back home.
This June, Guaido was hit with a massive embezzlement and corruption scandal relating to his humanitarian aid stunt in February in Colombia.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has accused Vecchio of stealing $70 million from Citgo, the US-based sister company of PDVSA that was placed under his control when the Trump administration launched its coup attempt this January. It is unclear who is paying the salary of the US-appointed "ambassador" and his growing cavalcade of professional opposition activists, but the dispute over Citgo's assets offer a hint.