Venezuela Talks in Norway Make About As Much Sense as Trap Door on Canoe

No deal in Norway for Venezuela’s opposition. No surprise. You cannot compromise with a narco-terror criminal cartel. From the onset, the secret Venezuela-Norway talks struck me as odd. It makes for good publicity, for Europe. However, flying more than ten hours to Olso, there are no direct flights from Caracas, makes about as much sense as a trap door on a canoe.

The leader of the free world has backed your efforts, yet you ship you your best advisors to Oslo? San Jose, Costa Rica would’ve been a better choice. But San Jose is common sense, something sorely needed in this imbroglio. Common sense.

A member of the opposition wing of the Venezuela Assembly, Mr. Juan Guaido, has been leading the charge. He has been called President and interim President, among other titles. As a matter of law, it is not clear how a nation can have two presidents when one has the guns and the other a bullhorn. Who sold this idea to the United States?

Someone needs to make crystal clear to Venezuela’s resistance movement that President Donald Trump has generously invested the good name of the American people to a movement, not a man. If Guaido is unable to lead, find someone who can. And if Guaido is the right person, and the opposition seeks what they have always thought, a negotiated outcome, don’t lie to President Trump or the American people that they want something other than a negotiated outcome.

Economic sanctions, speeches, and all sort of diplomatic maneuvers yet reported by the media on the Venezuela matter will do little to advance the cause of liberty. So if America wants to avoid a war, and we should talk they must. Critics of talks argue you cannot negotiate with tyrants. That is not true. Joseph Stalin was a tyrant, yet somehow Franklin Delano Roosevelt and he found common ground and pressed onward. Economic sanctions are an easy ask, “I care” solution for political leaders yet they, alone, do not change governments. If they did, do you really think the U.S. embargo of Cuba would still be in place? Or what about North Korea? Yet they are not toys. They work and should be deployed judiciously. With purpose and a clear goal in mind.

Does common ground exist in Venezuela? No idea. An invasion has already taken place. China, Russia, and its de-facto vassal state, Cuba, are going to ride this one out as long as they can. The occupying powers know the American electorate is not eager for war. Nor is our President. That gives them a slight advantage, but not all that much.

Unlike faraway places such as Syria or Ukraine, Venezuela is a Western Hemisphere conflict where location, economic sanctions, robust and U.S.-led diplomacy gives America an edge. Tough talk aside, the United States has not imposed anywhere near enough economic sanctions on the Troika of Tyranny.

A flaccid application of sanctions, coupled with tough talk will move the needle very little. In fact, it can make things a whole lot worse in the Andean region and Russia will be alright with that outcome. Why hasn’t the grouping of fifty-plus nations supporting Venezuela’s interim leader Juan Guaido followed America’s lead on sanctions? In a coalition, the Lima Group members would’ve pressed for international sanctions long go. The Organization of American States (e.g., the Americas Debate Society) could’ve done more to advance a better way forward. The OAS, however, is in urgent need of auditing and reforming.

During the late 1980s, many nations imposed economic sanctions on South Africa. Why hasn’t that happened with Venezuela? The answer depends who you are asking. The majority of the Venezuelan opposition has shied away from sanctions for a long time. Venezuela is of less strategic importance to the various stakeholders. No appetite for a fight. A combination of these and other factors too.

How much political capital should the Trump administration invest in the Andean region as compared to other matters such as Iran, North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, South and East China seas, or for that matter, genocides against Christians in Africa? At this juncture, it seems the administration is taking its cue from Venezuelan opposition leaders and their ability, or lack thereof, to cobble together an effective strategy that works for them.

Maybe Guaido wants, and the Nobel Commission is eager to award, a Nobel. As the talks, whatever they are, broke down yesterday, Guaido lamented on Twitter and urged his followers to ‘hit the streets.’ Again. This cart before the horse, nation-building by mass movements is a lot more reckless, and at some level, less humane, than military intervention. It is also used by the occupying powers to wait us out. Putin is smiling as are his Havana puppets.

I doubt the status quo on Venezuela will lead to liberty for the people of that country. Yet long as Russia, Cuba, and more importantly, China, remain meddling in that space the longer a viable solution, one that is in the U.S. national interest, will materialize. Shuttling off to Norway does not bode way on this latter point. Nor does the opaque and seemingly rudderless policy aims of the opposition.

If negotiations are the way forward, Venezuela’s opposition leaders should engage from a position of strength. For starters, coordinate a lot more with Uncle Sam, not the Organization of American States; the coalition in name only, the Lima Group; and, less so, European leftists in Oslo or anywhere else for that matter.

America can and should do more to advance the cause of liberty in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba. In Venezuela, Assembly leaders need to step up, step aside and allow others to lead, or leave U.S. taxpayers out of the “solution.” This is especially so if the “solution” includes coddling Cuba, Russia, and China. If these actors are allowed to remain in Venezuela, especially China, it is a sure recipe for long-term regional irritants extending beyond the Andean region.

America can accomplish a whole lot more to advance U.S. national and security interests in the Western Hemisphere without the misguided cues of the Venezuelan opposition, and their high-priced advisors, some who are sanctioned by the U.S. government. I thought we should go at it alone for more than 8 years now. More so today. America’s front yard needs bold leadership, not the poker-face diplomacy of the last 15 years.

A U.S.-focused effort will undoubtedly crystallize the way forward for a new generation of Venezuelan political leaders some, hopefully, still unknown and more pro-American. Military interventions are not needed. There are plenty of folks on the ground in Caracas, and around Venezuela, who are eager for a new way forward.

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