Sunday, January 06, 2019

Options For U.S. Policy in Venezuela

Geoff Ramsey and David Smilde authored a policy brief for the Washington Office on Latin America making recommendations for U.S. policy toward Venezuela. Productive U.S. policy, that is. Not invasion threats, which is the predilection of many Trump advisers. Their recommendations are based on the following assertion, with which I agree:

Today, the only viable path out of the crisis is for actors in both the government and opposition to reach a political accord that restores democratic governance through some kind of credible negotiations process. 
Unsaid here is that any such accord needs to convince the army, which will then pressure Nicolás Maduro.

I will let you read the details but a few things stand out for me. One is the need to clarify sanctions. In particular, it's important to show what sanctions will be eased by what actions. We've seen for decades in Cuba that they're often just used as bludgeons, when they should be bargaining tools. In my opinion this is an important signal to the army.

Also important is more participation from the European Union and the United Nations. Make this as global as possible. The Lima Group is hampered by how many countries don't belong to it, or in Mexico's case still belong but don't sign on. A more global reach, as opposed to one that can easily be viewed as driven by conservative Latin American governments, will also be an important signal to the army.

I hope some within the administration can show the requisite subtlety, though I am not hopeful. What we've seen (publicly at least) is Mike Pompeo talking about Venezuela to conservative allies, including Jair Bolsonaro, who is unhinged. We see periodic announcements of sanctions without any strategy attached to them. We hear wild statements about invasion and coups. In short, we have yet to see evidence of adults in the room.


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