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How Far Will the U.S. Go in Venezuela?

The administration’s policy of regime change in Venezuela will soon be put to the test:

Mr. Maduro, a leftist strongman who has jailed political opponents and forced critics into exile, said the opposition leader broke a travel ban recently ordered by the Supreme Court allied with the president and will face justice if he returns.

“No one can be above the law,” Mr. Maduro told ABC News on Tuesday.

Allowing Mr. Guaidó to return unimpeded would make Mr. Maduro look weak with the armed forces, whose support is vital to his hold on power, said Ignacio Arcaya, a former Venezuelan foreign minister. But any move against the opposition leader is sure to provoke the U.S., one of more than 50 countries that recognize Mr. Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful president.

There has been no discussion of what the U.S. is prepared to do in the event that Maduro has Guaido arrested when he returns to Venezuela. The U.S. and its allies have declared for Guaido, but it isn’t clear how far any of the other governments supporting him are willing to go on his behalf. Guaido may try to force the issue when he goes back in order to make his outside supporters take more aggressive action, and that may give the hard-liners in and around the administration the excuse they have been waiting for to insist on direct intervention. If that happens, it is imperative that Congress refuse to authorize military action. The U.S. is under no obligation to aid in the toppling of the Venezuelan government, and as it happens Venezuelans are even more opposed to U.S. armed intervention in their country than they are opposed to Maduro.

Like previous opposition efforts to stage a dramatic confrontation with Maduro’s forces, Guaido’s attempt at returning to the country will likely just call attention to the weakness of his position inside Venezuela. The standoff threatens to drag on for quite a while, and the longer that Venezuela remains under U.S. sanctions the worse things are going to get for tens of millions of people. U.S. interference in this crisis was a serious mistake, and we may be about to learn just how big of a mistake it was.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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