Geoff Ramsey urges Biden to change the stagnant Venezuela policy that he inherited from Trump:
After 11 months in office, the administration has not significantly altered US policy. Indeed, in January 2022, Biden will almost certainly reemphasize the Trump administration’s recognition of the opposition coalition led by Guaidó as Venezuela’s legal government. Regardless of the constitutional questions at stake, it remains unclear how this will advance democracy in Venezuela, and members of Guaidó’s own circle have issued calls to revise this strategy.
In the absence of a clear plan, the broad strokes of US policy toward Venezuela remain unchanged – with slightly more rhetorical emphasis on the need for a political solution. Neither the State Department nor the White House has detailed how the United States will actually ensure successful negotiations to resolve the country’s crisis.
There are few US policies more in need of changing than this one. The US pursuit of regime change in Venezuela has been a flop from the start, and intensifying sanctions have only worsened conditions in the country. Next month will be the third anniversary of the USrecognition of Guaidó as the interim president, and he is as far removed from taking office as he has ever been. For some reason, the Biden administration has been continuing with the charade of pretending that an opposition politician with no official role and no control over anything is the “legitimate” president of the country. Even his own would-be foreign minister has lost confidence in Guaidó and quit, and this defection reflects the fractured nature of the opposition. It is one of the many oddities of American regime change policies that our government retains more confidence in a failed opposition leader than many of the people in the opposition.
“Maximum pressure” sanctions on Venezuela have been particularly harsh, and they have been imposed on a country that was already suffering from severe economic and humanitarian crises. Maduro has tightened his grip on power, and he and his allies appear to be firmly entrenched. Far from pushing Maduro out, “maximum pressure” has caused him to hold on to power for dear life. The military has not turned on Maduro so far, and it seems unlikely that the top military leadership will abandon him anytime soon. The Trump administration jumped on the regime change bandwagon because they thought they were pushing on an open door and would be able to achieve a quick win that they could use to pander to voters in Florida. Instead, Venezuela is in even worse straits than it was then, there is no realistic prospect of a change in political leadership in the foreseeable future, and US meddling has strengthened the forces it was supposed to be weakening. You could hardly ask for a clearer example of a complete failure of US policy than this.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.