Thursday, August 06, 2015

U.S.-Venezuelan Diplomacy

More on the U.S.-Venezuela diplomatic dance. The State Department issues a statement about the upcoming election:

The United States views with concern reports of recent decisions by the Venezuelan National Electoral Council and Comptroller General banning certain members of the political opposition from running for or holding public office. These decisions clearly have the intention of complicating the ability of the opposition to run candidates for the legislative elections, and limiting the range of candidates that can be presented to the Venezuelan people. 
Democracy must be inclusive. Its purpose is to provide a broad enough range of choice for voters to express their preferences in meaningful fashion. To this end, we call on all relevant Venezuelan authorities to reconsider the ban imposed on candidates, and reiterate our call for credible and timely electoral observation. We encourage the appropriate institutions to ensure that Venezuelans can exercise their right to participate in the upcoming elections, as candidates and voters, in keeping with Venezuela’s democratic traditions and in accordance with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

Venezuela issues an indignant reply:

El Despacho del Viceministro para América del Norte del Ministerio del Poder Popular Para Relaciones Exteriores de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela rechaza terminantemente las expresiones injerencistas del funcionario del Departamento de Estado de los Estados Unidos de América, Mark C. Toner, divulgadas públicamente el 4 de agosto del corriente año, en las que se inmiscuye en asuntos constitucionales internos relativos a la elección popular para cargos públicos en Venezuela. 
La República Bolivariana de Venezuela insiste que los actos de los poderes públicos venezolanos se rigen, de manera irrestricta y sin excepción alguna, por la Constitución venezolana y sus leyes. Por tanto, tan delicadas funciones públicas no pueden responder a mandato, directriz o instrucciones foráneas, lo cual, vulneraría los principios de soberanía, integridad y autodeterminación de los Estados. 
Finalmente, el Despacho del Viceministro Para América del Norte del Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela reitera a los Estados Unidos de América que la construcción de relaciones amistosas y transparentes entre ambos países requiere, como condición indispensable, abandonar las prácticas injerencistas y propender al mantenimiento de un clima apegado al Derecho Internacional y sus principios. 
En tal sentido, ratificamos nuestra disposición a seguir cultivando conversaciones dirigidas a la regularización de las relaciones diplomáticas bilaterales, en el marco de la normativa internacional que rige las buenas relaciones entre los Estados.

David Smilde recently blogged about the thawing of U.S.-Venezuelan relations and I am chewing all this over. What's occurring is more than "thaw." It is also more than just "good cop, bad cop." There are positive and negative signals being sent simultaneously. You have sanctions, Tom Shannon chats, tough statements from Kerry, nice statements from Kerry, and then these pointed criticisms about elections.

Without knowing what's being said in private, there is no way to tell precisely how all these get linked together. But I would guess that a key message is that a) allowing election observers; and b) not banning everyone you dislike holds the promise of more thawing. The U.S. wants free elections, though it also wants Venezuela not to collapse. In that sense, Maduro's own mismanagement gives him a bit of leverage--the U.S. will talk for fear of getting an even worse outcome. In the meantime, you keep periodically sniping at each other. I'm not sure whether that qualifies as "thaw."

At this point, I don't know that the Obama administration has any better options. Cracking down hard on Venezuela would lead to more disarray and would not play well in the region. I still believe that the sanctions make it harder for Latin American governments to criticize Maduro, and I can't see the U.S. getting its desired outcome by imposing more. The best solution is for Venezuelans to sort it out themselves, and the way to do that is to encourage free elections.


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