Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Does Bolton's Departure Matter for Venezuela Policy?

The Venezuelan government has expressed its pleasure that Donald Trump fired John Bolton. They're all apparently thinking of eating papayas to celebrate. On the surface, this makes sense because Bolton is well-known for wanting military intervention. But it's hard to see the administration's policy toward Venezuela changing all that much.

Early in the year, Bolton's presence is part of what made me nervous about intervention. After the ridiculous Troika of Tyranny speech last November (anyone still use that phrase? Didn't think so) he pushed for military force. Trump didn't want to make that commitment, and so simply started ignoring him. This is why I don't think much will change--Bolton wasn't driving the president's agenda on Venezuela anymore anyway.

Now that Bolton is gone, Mike Pompeo has even more influence, and he's equally as bombastic when he wants to be. However, after the failed Venezuelan uprisings earlier this year he followed Trump's lead and toned himself down.

Pompeo in January 2019: ""Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. No more delays, no more games. Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you're in league with Maduro and his mayhem."

Pompeo in September 2019:  "We built out that coalition of 50+ countries that have now recognized Juan Guaido as the appropriate, duly-elected leader in Venezuela. And I’m confident we will provide the support that’s necessary so that Venezuela can return to a country with some level of freedom, some level of democracy, and the opportunity to feed its own people."

I agree with Chris Sabatini about how Maduro should not celebrate this too much: "Bolton’s strategy was flawed from the beginning and his departure may pave the way to bring in a more professional, effective diplomat that could be a greater threat to Maduro’s autocracy.” Bolton, even if sidelined, generated mixed signals. That will be less evident now. The administration says that talks have been taking place.

Right now, the administration's approach is sanctions-heavy with some dialogue. If Trump didn't use military force with Bolton there, I can't see any reason it would happen after he left. If the administration uses dialogue more effectively--with plenty of carrots to go with the sticks--maybe it can change the stance of senior officers in the military. Or maybe not. But at a minimum it's more possible without Bolton trying to sabotage it.


Alfredo 9:05 AM  

Maduro is looking more and more like the sense that politicians and people in power were shouting Assad "must go"....turns out many of them

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