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Washington's Woeful Maduro Miscalculation

April 29, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

When Washington recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s rightful
president, Trump administration officials clearly hoped that
incumbent Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power would not last long. There
were reasons for such optimism. The socialist regime’s corruption
and grotesque economic mismanagement had reached crisis levels.
Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, had transformed Venezuela
from one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries into a
poverty-stricken horror marked by runaway inflation and severe shortages even of
the most basic consumer necessities. Venezuela was the latest
exhibit in the museum of socialist calamities. Maduro’s popularity
had plunged, and his implementation of ever more autocratic measures to suppress opponents did
not help his situation.

The Trump administration’s efforts to get other nations in the
Hemisphere to recognize Guaido seemed to be paying off as well.
Most governments followed Washington’s lead and rejected Maduro. There
were only a few exceptions. Not surprisingly, the Hemisphere’s
other radical leftist regimes (those in Cuba and Nicaragua)
expressed solidarity with Maduro. And Mexico adopted a position of
uneasy neutrality, trying to avoid taking sides
in Venezuela’s domestic political feud. On the whole, though,
Washington’s diplomatic offensive succeeded in lining-up support
for Guaido, not only in the Western Hemisphere, but in Europe and other regions as well.

The Trump administration
has already pushed the envelope of appropriate outside support for
Venezuela’s President-elect Juan Guaido to the limit.

However, the anticipated collapse of the Maduro regime has yet to occur. Despite massive opposition
demonstrations and pervasive discontent with the domestic economy,
his grip on power remains surprisingly strong. Most crucially,
Venezuela’s military has remained loyal to Maduro, despite U.S. pressure to switch allegiance to Guaido.
In addition, both Russia and China have voiced support for Maduro
and provided some financial assistance. Moscow has gone further,
dispatching two nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela along with
more than one hundred military technicians to help restore the
country’s air-defense missile system.

An increasingly annoyed and uneasy U.S. government has tightened
already onerous economic restrictions on Venezuela. U.S.
officials appear worried that Guaido’s bid for power is
faltering—a concern that is well-founded. Washington took a
bold stance in recognizing him as president, even though he and his
backers controlled no meaningful territory. That move may turn out
to be another example of a U.S. foreign-policy initiative based on
little more than wishful thinking.

It wouldn’t be the first time that U.S. leaders assumed
that a foreign client had far more domestic backing than proved to
be the case. During the 1980s …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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