“There’s always a risk of an October surprise,” said Russ Dallen, a Miami-based lawyer who monitors the Venezuelan oil industry, referring to pre-election political moves designed to impress voters.
“They will keep hammering away at these wedge issues,” said Dallen. Since taking office, Trump has also heaped pressure on Cuba’s communist government, undoing a historic political opening by the previous administration of Barack Obama.
More worrying for Maduro parhaps, Venezuela oil production fell its lowest since 1929 last month, with no new drilling taking place, according to Dallen’s consulting firm, Caracas Capital Markets. Venezuela’s oil production in July was only 339,000 barrels per day, a drop of 86% since Maduro took office in 2013 when the country produced 2.3 million barrels per day.
The lack of new drilling is also an alarming sign for Maduro, experts say. “If you don’t drill you die,” said Dallen. “Venezuela has lakes of oil underground, but it doesn’t have the oceans of oil that Saudi Arabia is blessed with, so it has to keep drilling,” he added.