Analysis & Opinions - Bloomberg Opinion

The Right Way to Do Regime Change in Venezuela

| Sep. 28, 2017

Hitting Maduro with crippling sanctions could backfire. Looking back at South Africa offers a better game plan.

Unsurprisingly, President Donald Trump hasn’t held back when speaking about the political crisis in Venezuela. Before the United Nations General Assembly, he demanded the full restoration of “democracy and political freedoms” in the Latin American country. A month earlier, he stunned many by stating that he would not rule out a military intervention. His UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, has echoed the fierce rhetoric, declaring that the U.S. will not tolerate a “dictatorship” in Venezuela.

Observers are forgiven if they are perplexed. How is the administration’s position toward Venezuela consistent with its oft-stated insistence that every country has the right to be sovereign? Or with Trump’s promises that the days of Washington meddling in the domestic affairs of other countries are over?

I have no sympathy for Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, a left-wing thug who has maintained power by creating an unconstitutional new national assembly. But I can understand if he is wondering why leaders in, say, Saudi Arabia have been given a complete pass on domestic human-rights issues, while he receives threats of military intervention.

But let’s put that aside. Few administrations are truly consistent in their foreign policies, and any such consistency would probably be overrated in any case. Moreover, there is a much better reason to be perplexed about the White House’s approach to Venezuela.

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For Academic Citation: O'Sullivan, Meghan.“The Right Way to Do Regime Change in Venezuela.” Bloomberg Opinion, September 28, 2017.