Congress’s indefensible defense budget • Saving Venezuela
Diplomacy, not sanctions, is the most effective method to prevent catastrophe
The misery and impending chaos in Venezuela have prompted an international response that seems almost laughably disproportionate: a special meeting of the Organization of American States to present a report about Venezuela. It feels feeble and futile—but it’s this kind of patient diplomacy that stands the best chance of containing and repairing the disaster.
President Nicolás Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez have routinely used the bogeyman of U.S. intervention to justify their repression, so imposing broad economic sanctions won’t necessarily make Maduro more open to dialogue. Not only is the economy already in tatters but his willingness to sacrifice the well-being of ordinary Venezuelans to keep his Rolex-clad clique in power is all too clear.
That leaves the winding path of diplomacy as the best way forward. What’s needed are smart strategies and new players to make diplomacy more effective. China—Venezuela’s biggest benefactor in recent years—has a financial interest in persuading Maduro to change his policies; it’s also in a better position to provide humanitarian assistance that Venezuela has rejected from other sources. At the same time, the U.S. should quietly make clear to Venezuela’s military that limited sanctions on officials for corruption and human rights abuses can be quickly expanded. It should also step up efforts to help Caribbean countries wean themselves from cut-rate Venezuelan oil that’s influenced their voting patterns at the OAS and the United Nations.
Venezuela’s neighbors and colleagues in the OAS need to make sure that any “dialogue” between Maduro and the domestic opposition has buy-in from all parties. In addition to supporting pro-democracy efforts, they should apply pressure on Venezuela in Mercosur, the regional trade bloc. And if the nation refuses to change its undemocratic ways, the OAS could put Venezuela through the humiliating process of expulsion. <BW>