Saturday, August 12, 2017

Trump's Venezuela Policy

I have a piece in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs that just came out about U.S. policy toward Latin America. More specifically, it examines the effectiveness of soft power versus hard power.

Coincidentally, shortly after it came out Donald Trump announced that a "military option" was not off the table for Venezuela. This is Trump's "deal making," whereby he blusters to appear tough and then backs down. I suppose he believes such a statement will frighten the Venezuelan government to the bargaining table.

I am one of many who argued that doing this was a gift to Nicolás Maduro, who can use it to whip up nationalist sentiment. Chavistas who are wavering will find it harder to pull away when he talks like this.

But it was also unfortunate because Trump seems to be claiming that the Venezuela situation is somehow bilateral. It makes diplomacy more difficult, to the extent that the Trump administration cares. Allies in the region such as Mexico, Colombia, and Peru, all came out against the statement. It makes a multilateral solution even more challenging, and it was painfully difficult to begin with.

Henrique Capriles hasn't said anything, except to retweet the U.S. Defense Department's statement that it didn't know anything, and in general the opposition isn't talking. That's unfortunate. Perhaps they want to be careful about offending Trump, since they like how he keeps Venezuela in the headlines. Trump is a vain man who pays attention to those who criticize him.

Several months ago, I noted that Trump was doing little with Venezuela and that was a good thing. It is likely he will continue doing little, but there comes a point when the "walking loudly" is counter-productive.


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