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Home/Daniel Larison/The Failure of Our Bankrupt Venezuela Policy

The Failure of Our Bankrupt Venezuela Policy

This report on the faltering opposition in Venezuela includes a disturbing detail about possible escalation from the Trump administration:

But the Trump administration is weighing new steps — short of boots on the ground — that could further strain harmony. The options, according to two people familiar with U.S. deliberations, include a possible naval blockade of Venezuelan oil destined for Cuba, a key source of revenue for Maduro’s heavily sanctioned government.

Imposing a blockade on Venezuela would be illegal and an act of war. The president obviously has no authorization from Congress to do anything of the kind, but in light of Congress’ abject failure to rein in the president’s other illegal wars that probably won’t stop it from happening. It would be a completely unwarranted and reckless escalation of U.S. interference in Venezuela’s political crisis, and to make matters worse it would come at a time when Guaido and his allies are weaker than ever. Guaido’s support is dwindling, and as 2019 draws to a close he is no closer to taking power than he was almost eleven months ago:

As the year closes out, it has become clear Guaidó did not so much promise as over-promise.

Guaidó and his American allies have underestimated Maduro. The armed forces, whose leaders enjoy lucrative business deals under the current arrangements, still back the 57-year-old socialist.

Instead of considering options for deepening U.S. involvement in the crisis, the failure of the regime change policy should make the U.S. rethink its entire approach. As usual, there is no rethinking going on in the Trump administration:

“Tougher options are being weighed, and some of them will be put into effect,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. “There are no debates about the policy — backing Guaidó and pressing for a transition to democracy — but there are discussions about how to make the policy more effective. So steps will be taken, probably after Christmas.”

It does not occur to the administration that the policy itself is fatally flawed, and so they will keep intensifying their efforts without success. For Venezuelans that have to live with the consequences of the U.S. economic war, the failure of U.S. regime change policy is obvious:

Yet some Guiadó supporters blame him for a U.S. policy they believe has failed. U.S. economic sanctions, some argue, are hurting an economy already on life support.

The Trump administration’s economic wars achieve nothing except to deepen the misery and hardship of ordinary people in the targeted countries. The administration’s abusive policies of collective punishment ought to be a scandal, but in Washington their ill effects are barely noticed. Sanctions aren’t driving Maduro from power, and it was never likely that they would, but they are having the predictable effect of making life harder for the civilian population. Venezuela is a clear example of how sanctions don’t work and only serve to make things worse.

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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