The Trump administration’s Venezuela blunder just got worse:
A stinging statement from Pompeo refers to "former president Nicolas Maduro" and says he doesn't have the legal authority to break diplomatic ties with the US or declare US diplomats "persona non grata." It calls on the Venezuelan military to protect US citizens in Venezuela pic.twitter.com/Sig7WmKd2H
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) January 24, 2019
No matter what one thinks about the decision to recognize Venezuela’s opposition leader as president, this response from Pompeo is reckless in the extreme. It’s all very well to say that Maduro has no legal authority to do things, but as long as he retains the loyalty of the military and security forces he has de facto control of the country. Keeping U.S. diplomats in a country where our government has just declared the current leadership to be illegitimate puts them at great risk for no good reason. The Trump administration has just poked Maduro and his allies in the eye and sided with his domestic opponents, and when Maduro reacts to the provocation they seriously think that he is going to be bound by what our government considers his legal authority? They can’t possibly be that naive, so we have to assume that they are trying to create a crisis that will give them a pretext for more interference and possibly even direct intervention. I have a sinking feeling that no one in the government has given a moment’s thought to what happens next if things start to go awry, and I have no confidence in the judgment of any of the people pushing this impetuous Venezuela policy.
The administration’s Venezuela policy is notable for being one of its most hawkish and one of the least noticed parts of its foreign policy. Marco Rubio and his allies have been able to craft a very aggressive policy with minimal scrutiny and debate, and for whatever reason Trump has embraced that policy every step of the way. Members of Congress need to start paying attention and they have to make clear that the president has no authority to order military action against anyone in Venezuela. They also need to demand answers from the administration about the process that led to the irresponsible decision to recognize the head of the National Assembly as the new president.