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Trump’s Embargo Torpedoes Venezuelan Negotiations

The administration has successfully torpedoed the negotiations that offered the only viable way out of the crisis.

The Trump administration’s use of sanctions to kill diplomacy has had its intended effect in Venezuela:

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Wednesday pulled his government out of this week’s negotiations with the opposition aimed at resolving the country’s political crisis after the Trump administration imposed sweeping sanctions against the Caribbean nation.

Mr. Maduro said he ordered his negotiators to abandon two days of Norway-brokered talks planned in Barbados this week. It couldn’t be learned whether Mr. Maduro’s representatives had abandoned the talks altogether or would be back.

It seemed very likely that the Trump administration’s escalation of the economic war on Venezuela would sabotage the ongoing talks with the opposition. That is exactly what has happened. Hard-line regime changers such as Bolton have no interest in a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and they certainly don’t want to settle for a compromise that falls short of bringing down the government. As I said yesterday:

The administration seeks to undermine these negotiations because they stand a chance, however remote, that diplomacy can resolve something that their heavy-handed policy of sanctions and threats cannot. They would rather push Venezuela into the abyss for the sake of their disastrous regime change policy than accept a negotiated compromise that might offer the country some relief.

The administration has successfully torpedoed the negotiations that offered the only viable way out of the crisis. They have done this because they place far more importance on pursuing their goal of regime change than they do on finding an acceptable political settlement that might stabilize Venezuela. Increasing sanctions is usually harmful to the cause of diplomacy unless there is a way that the targeted government can get out from under the sanctions without surrendering and losing power. When regime change is the goal of the sanctions policy, increasing sanctions just causes the targeted government to dig in and resist. We have seen this before, and we are seeing it again today.

It may come as no surprise that the opposition was surprised by the government’s decision to pull out of the talks:

The decision surprised representatives of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who were already on the Caribbean island of Barbados awaiting what was to be the start Thursday of the sixth round of talks that began in May under the auspices of Norway.

“We Venezuelans have watched with profound indignation how the chief of the opposition, Juan Guaidó, celebrates, promotes and supports these harmful actions against our nation’s sovereignty and our peoples’ most basic human rights,” the government said in a statement Wednesday night.

This would hardly be the first time that the opposition has been caught off guard and surprised that things haven’t gone their way. The government’s reaction to the U.S. embargo was predictable, and if the opposition wanted these talks to proceed they should have opposed the administration’s decision. As it is, they endorsed a cruel economic war on their own country that may have just wrecked their best chance at negotiating a power-sharing arrangement or new elections. To no one’s surprise but their own, it blew up in their faces once again. The administration’s increased pressure did not lead to “forcing serious talks,” as the Post‘s editors hoped might happen. Instead, “maximum pressure” blew up the negotiations that offered a way out of the current crisis.

U.S. interference is making conditions in Venezuela worse, and it is making it harder to resolve the crisis peacefully.



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