Sunday, September 24, 2017

Cuba's Role in a Venezuela Transition

Jorge Castañeda (academic and former Mexican Foreign Minister) argues in an NYT op-ed that Donald Trump and Raúl Castro have an incentive to work together on Venezuela. As Venezuelan resources dry up, the Cuban leader understand that long-term he really needs the United States. Trump wants (or claims to want) democratization  in Venezuela and Cuba is the only country with enough clout to have a decisive impact. Safe haven in Havana is an incentive for leaders who will otherwise face imprisonment.

Venezuela has a lot to gain from a grand bargain including Cuba and the United States, but so do Cuba, the United States and the rest of Latin America. At the moment, it might seem naïve to think that Mr. Maduro and his allies would accept a deal in which he leaves power just as he appears to have consolidated it. But sometimes that is the best moment to reach an agreement. Venezuela’s situation is untenable, and the Cubans, who have been around forever, know that. Does Mr. Trump?

I tend to agree with this. The main problem is that in the past year or two, incentives haven't worked the way we would expect them to. There are incentives for Latin American countries to work together, but it hasn't happened. Perhaps more importantly, Donald Trump a) has domestic incentives that sometimes contradict foreign policy ones; and b) does not understand those incentives. He is chasing a small group of voters who loved the Bay of Pigs and might decide to stick with them even though they cannot actually get him elected.

You know what Castañeda doesn't mention? The presence of nefarious external actors. And he shouldn't. As Harold Trinkunas and I talked about on Friday in my podcast, their impact is overstated.


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