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Venezuela “Pacts” May be One Bridge Too Far, Too Late

There is an interesting piece by Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post on the unfolding crisis in Venezuela. Diehl clearly lays out the seemingly benign neglect, or curiously ambivalence, by policymakers and diplomats toward the oil-rich Andean nation.

What is interesting about it is that a senior editor of The Washington Post has to put pen to paper to discuss Washington’s allergy to all things Latin America. The term “reactionary” envelopes well U.S. policy toward Latin America for the past 15 years. In the Venezuela case, Diehl argues that a “pact” is needed to bring to a closure the latest round of protests. I agree. However, this is one pact that is one bridge too far and too late.

There are no groups or individuals that can mediate such an agreement, at least a viable option that will put in place a transition to democracy and rule of law in Venezuela. The Organization of American States (OAS) has absolutely no credibility in the Americas. It cannot be relied on to mediate, much less broker a deal between the parties. For starters, the OAS Secretary General prefers to dabble with the Left, including Cuba, rather than use his good offices to advance the mission of the organization. And waiting for the Pope to weigh in is wishful thinking, not a policy. (Note: Yleem has an item on the subject in The Hill blog that you may want to read).

None of this should surprise anyone, not even The Washington Post editorial board. The Venezuela crisis has been going on for years. The United States, led both Democratic and Republican Administrations, have refused to be more proactive. And even when it can, it does nothing. For example, Cuban adventurism in Venezuela is at an all time high. The Obama national security team should be calling on Cuba to step off. Yet it does nothing, or worse, it continues to explore the easing of sanctions on the Cuban regime, ignoring or refusing to link Cuban mischief in the Americas and elsewhere.

In my legal practice, I’ve had the honor of representing and advising Venezuelan ex-pats forced into exile because the Venezuelan regime targeted them or, simply, they decided it was too dangerous to stay behind. “We need help and we’re tired of waiting,” is a common complaint.  Indeed. And, if the protests hold in Venezuela and the opposition can secure critical support from the poor, it could plunge the country into a very dark place. More people that we need to rebuild the nation will then surely pack it up and call it a day.

There very well may be more seemingly pressing issues in the Ukraine, and elsewhere in the world, but the Western Hemisphere is our immediate sphere of influence (a region that China and Russia enjoy dabbling in). The United States can walk and chew gum.  Over the long-term it would be good to see a more proactive approach to all things Latin America. For now, the Venezuelan and Cuban peopler need something sooner. This means a future without the Castro brothers or the Bolivarian regime in Caracas.

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