The discovery that Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross does business with the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, puts Donald Trump in a very complicated position. Either the president renounces his associate or he will have to give ample explanations as to why he's allowing one of his right-hand men to spend money on a regime on which he himself has imposed sanctions.
Information from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in which a variety of media from all over the world participate, uncovered that Ross – a millionaire private equity investor, defined by Trump on occasion as “the legendary Wall Street genius” – sustained involvement with a shipping line that does business with the state oil company PDVSA, controlled directly by the chavista regime. This business is one of the main reasons for the sanctions Trump approved in August against chavista leaders, to the point that it is prohibited for its U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, to send dividends to Caracas.
Apparently, neither this blatant conflict of interest nor the recurring threats from Trump against the Venezuelan regime – “We have a problem with Venezuela, they are doing very badly”* (March); “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary” (August); “confronting … socialist oppression in Venezuela”** (October) – constitute any conflict for Ross, whose spokespeople have already indicated that they've never had to look for “any ethics exemptions.”
Since before Trump officially took office in January, the contradictions and confusion between the public and private have been a personal trademark of his administration. Ross's behavior shocked everyone except the involved party. And probably not the president either.
*Editor’s note: These statements were made in February during a meeting with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
**Editor’s note: The full quotation reads: “We're confronting rogue regimes from Iran to North Korea and we are challenging the communist dictatorship of Cuba and the socialist oppression of Venezuela.”