Monday, June 22, 2020

Biden and Trump on Venezuela

Donald Trump has been hard to sort out with regard to Venezuela. You really cannot start with any of the typical core assumptions. One of those is that Florida is critical for him in the presidential election, so he'll do whatever he can to get the hardline Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American vote. It ostensibly makes even more sense because during 2016, he actually courted the Bay of Pigs vote, which is way out there in terms of pure pandering.

But this assumption just does not seem to hold. Those hardliners want Maduro out, preferably by force. They abhor dialogue, which they see as a farce intended to allow Maduro to stall. And yet here is Trump in an interview, a mere five months before the election:
In an Oval Office interview with Axios on Friday, President Trump suggested he's had second thoughts about his decision to recognize Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela and said he is open to meeting with dictator Nicolás Maduro.
Current policy is based entirely on the notion that Guaidó is in fact the president. This statement upends that. The idea of high-level dialogue is anathema to Trump's base. They truly hate the idea, even though it's actually more rational than their suggestions.

And yet even Joe Biden disapproves. 

This is not a good response. The "thug" comment strongly suggests a "get tough" line that has been failing in Venezuela and Cuba. Biden knows full well that dialogue--even handshakes!--was good policy. He can rightly criticize Trump for screwing up the potential for dialogue, but trying to be tougher than him will not lead to good policy. And I don't think it will suddenly convince Floridians of anything much.

Back to Trump: what's he doing? He's following his feeling of the moment, which might already have changed by now. He's angering the Florida base and his own advisors, yet I doubt this will lead to any substantive change in policy either.

In conclusion: neither candidate has a coherent policy toward Venezuela.

Update: I had missed this from today. Incoherent as always.


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