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Is It Time to Cut U.S. Losses in Venezuela?

June 19, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

A few months ago, the Trump administration and most members of
America’s foreign policy community had high hopes that the fall of
Venezuela’s radical left-wing government was imminent. The United
States and more than 50 other countries promptly recognized Juan
Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly, who claimed to be
the country’s interim president, replacing Nicolas Maduro.

The United States and its allies clearly assumed that the
Venezuelan people would quickly dislodge Maduro from power. He was
already highly unpopular due to economic mismanagement and
increasingly autocratic behavior. But Maduro has not been deposed,
and the Trump administration needs to reassess its policy.

The anticipated uprising against Maduro failed to materialize in
January as Venezuela’s military remained loyal to him, despite U.S.
inducements and pressure to switch sides.
Guaidó and his followers then tried to revive the
rebellion’s flagging fortunes, organizing anti-regime demonstrations on April 30 and May 1.
After a few days, the new offensive fizzled as well. As the summer solstice
approaches, Maduro remains in power. The insurgent faction that the
United States regards as Venezuela’s lawful government has yet to
control any meaningful portion of the country. Guaidó
himself appears to be an increasingly marginal, even pathetic figure, and the opposition to
Maduro shows growing signs of disunity.

U.S. leaders are reluctant to admit that their policy has
failed. Instead, the excuse-making machinery is working overtime.
After the disappointing outcome of the spring demonstrations, U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even asserted that Maduro was on the
verge of fleeing to Cuba when the Kremlin assured him of
continued assistance from Russian and Cuban security forces
operating in the country.

Nevertheless, some governments that had followed Washington’s
policy lead now appear to be hedging their bets. When
Guaidó’s diplomatic envoy to Brazil arrived in that country,
the Brazilian government ostentatiously snubbed her. This was a significant action
given that not only is Brazil an especially important country in
the hemisphere, but its current right-wing government has been
openly hostile toward Maduro.

Any government facing a probable, high-profile policy failure is
always tempted to escalate rather than cut losses. The Trump
administration appears to be considering that course. It already
has intensified economic sanctions against Venezuela, including
targeting the beleaguered country’s oil sales. More worrisome, Trump himself once
flirted with the option of a direct U.S.
military intervention. It is not comforting that John Bolton, a
notorious hawk, is the president’s national security adviser.
Trump’s decision to appoint Elliott Abrams as a special envoy in
charge of Venezuela …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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