Friday, October 18, 2013

U.S. and Venezuelan Transition

José Cárdenas argues that the U.S. needs to "guide" a transition in Venezuela in case Nicolás Maduro is ousted.

Now, they need quite a different plan, one that seeks to help guide a peaceful transition to a post-Maduro government less hostile to the United States. If one thing is certain, Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba -- all heavily vested in the regime's radical wing -- are not about to stand idly by and let events play out.

There are a number of problems with this.

First, U.S. "guidance" often mucks everything up and leads to the opposite outcome policy makers want. We "guided" Venezuela in the 1980s, after all. Honduras is disintegrating in no small measure because of U.S. "guidance" in 2009. So be very careful about getting what you wish for.

Second, I am not so sure that Russia or China cares so much who is in power in Venezuela as long as they can get them some trade and investment. That doesn't really depend on ideology. Iran actually trades more with other Latin American countries, including quite a bit of growth with Mexico, than with Venezuela, and the Chávez-Ahmadinejad relationship is obviously no more. I would say Iran cares more than China and Russia do, but much less than Cárdenas claims. Cuba obviously cares a lot, but remember that when transition away from Sandinista rule occurred in Nicaragua, Cuba couldn't do anything about it, and now is even weaker than it was in those days.

Third, Venezuela is not anywhere close to the national security threat that Cárdenas claims. You need to believe a wide variety of conspiracy theories based on anonymous sources to make that argument work.

Of course the United States needs to pay close attention to events in Venezuela. But we need to resist the never-ending temptation to dip our fingers in because so often those efforts become self-defeating and counterproductive, especially when based on exaggerated claims of national security threat.


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