Congress’s in­de­fen­si­ble de­fense bud­get • Sav­ing Venezuela

Diplo­macy, not sanc­tions, is the most ef­fec­tive method to pre­vent catas­tro­phe

Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia) - - CONTENTS -

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>

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