The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
Secretary of the Treasury
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20220
Dear Secretary Mnuchin,
The undersigned organizations, representing millions of American taxpayers, write to call attention to an important matter concerning property rights and the rule of law. As you are aware, for decades, Venezuela has been controlled by socialist dictators Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro who have destroyed the country’s economy through centrally-planned schemes. Venezuela is yet another unfortunate example of socialism gone terribly wrong – and its citizens have paid the price dearly.
In 2011, as part of his reckless nationalization of the country’s gold industry, Hugo Chavez’s military seized the Las Cristinas gold mine, a massive reserve with the potential to provide jobs and economic benefits throughout the country, from a private company that had been operating in the area for years.
The company, Crystallex, spent millions of dollars in feasibility and environmental impact studies, invested in infrastructure, hired workers, and invested extensively in the local community (including building healthcare clinics and social projects).
Crystallex Tiled a claim through an international World Bank court established to resolve disputes between private companies and governments. Unsurprisingly, the court found Venezuela responsible for more than $1 billion in property theft. But Venezuela’s socialist regime has not cooperated and continues to deny the company its due. Given no other choice due to Venezuela’s legal obstruction, Crystallex has looked to the country’s assets in the U.S. to satisfy its claim, including parts of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company CITGO. Numerous courts, including the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled unanimously for Crystallex, upholding property rights and the rule of law.
Last year, numerous free-market and taxpayer organizations expressed concern that the Trump administration would issue an executive order blocking victims of property theft from pursuing justice. We are encouraged that this action has not been taken to date. The Treasury Department, however, has found a different way to deny justice to Crystallex through technical, bureaucratic arguments about unrelated sanctions on Venezuela.
To be clear, we believe the principles at stake in this situation are much larger than a gold mine in Venezuela. The course charted by the Trump administration in the coming months will send a clear signal to property rights owners around the world. If the U.S. government plays an active role in blocking the ability of private companies to be compensated for theft
of their property from socialist dictators, it will contradict President Trump’s strong record of opposing socialism at home and abroad. On the other hand, if the U.S. government provides a reasonable path forward for property owners, it will offer a strong rebuke of Hugo Chavez’s and Nicolas Maduro’s blatant disregard for free enterprise.
We share the Trump administration’s desire for freedom and democracy in Venezuela. To achieve it, we believe the protection of private property – and ability to seek compensation when wronged by socialism – must be honored at every turn. We urge the Treasury Department to allow for the restoration of private property rights without undue interference from the federal government.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Vice President of Legislative Affairs
American Business Defense Council
Americans for Limited Government
Mario H. Lopez
Hispanic Leadership Fund
Americans for Tax Reform
Center for Individual Freedom
Property Rights Alliance
Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity
Tea Party Nation
James L. Martin
60 Plus Association
Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
60 Plus Association