Wednesday, December 05, 2018

The Problem With Putting Venezuela on Terrorism List

For ten years Jason Blazakis managed the State Sponsors of Terrorism list at the State Department and he has some useful insights into the entire process, especially with regard to Venezuela. They are critical.

Labeling countries terrorist-supporting pariahs is an act of desperation — a “Hail Mary,” in football terms. Unless the international community shares the same sentiment, the country sanctioned will find ample opportunities to work around the SST tag.

And on Venezuela specifically:

The United States’ inconsistent application of the SST tag makes it harder for governments to accept U.S. arguments for strong action against countries it sees as threats. That’s why even if Venezuela is added to the list, it would not have the desired result — to convince the Maduro government to change its ways. Those ways though have little to do with terrorism. There is scant evidence to suggest that President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is providing material support to terrorist groups.

It is already hard to get Latin America to speak with one voice on anything, much less Venezuela. Doing this just throws a wrench into that because it generates distrust. Do this to Venezuela and everyone will immediately point to Saudi Arabia and Russia to ask, "Why not them"?

The answer is obvious. The list has been, is, and always will be based on constantly changing ideas of who we would like to label an enemy at any given time (we came to accept Libya and North Korea without any substantive change in what they were doing). Cuba was on for the longest time, which had no impact on its behavior, but which rolled eyes in Latin America. If there was evidence that it changed behavior, that's one thing. But there isn't any.

I wrote more about the implications of putting Venezuela on the list in November.


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