[News] The Ongoing Calamity: US Collective Punishment of the Venezuelan People Must End

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Tue Mar 16 13:05:57 EDT 2021


http://www.ramzybaroud.net/the-ongoing-calamity-us-collective-punishment-of-the-venezuelan-people-must-end/
The
Ongoing Calamity: US Collective Punishment of the Venezuelan People Must End

*By Ramzy Baroud - March 16, 2021 *

Recent statements made by US officials suggest that Washington will
continue to pursue a hardline policy on Venezuela. The new Biden
Administration, however, needs to urgently rethink its approach.

US State Department spokesperson, Ned Price, remarked
<https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/biden-administration-won-t-be-negotiating-venezuela-s-maduro-keeping-n1256735>
on February 3 that he “certainly” does not “expect this administration to
be engaging directly with (President) Maduro.” Namely, Price expects that
the Biden Administration will adhere to the strategy of its predecessor,
which is predicated on completely ignoring the current government in
Caracas.

Moreover, the Biden government will also continue to dialogue with
Venezuela’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido. On March 2, Guaido conversed
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-usa-idUSKCN2AU2QO> with the
new American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. It was the highest-level
US contact with the increasingly-discredited and isolated Guaido since
Biden’s inauguration
<https://edition.cnn.com/politics/live-news/biden-harris-inauguration-day-2021/index.html>
last January. In their exchange, Blinken and Guaido agreed on the
“importance of a return to democracy in Venezuela through free and fair
elections”.

It would be rational, therefore, to conclude that no significant change
regarding US foreign policy in Venezuela will occur under the Biden
Administration, at least imminently. However, such a conclusion would be
hasty, as it fails to appreciate the numerous changes that have transpired
in and around Venezuela in recent years, especially since Washington
strengthened its economic sanctions on the South American country in 2015
<https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10715.pdf> and again, in 2017
<https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10715.pdf>, 2019
<https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10715.pdf> and, finally, February 2020
<https://www.venezuelablog.org/taking-stock-of-chinese-russian-relations-venezuela/>
.

Washington’s agenda in Venezuela has unmistakably failed, and no amount of
additional sanctions is likely to change the political outcome. Not only
did the Maduro government, ruling party, regional and international allies
prove durable and capable of withstanding immense political and economic
pressures, Washington’s allies are no longer united, neither about
Venezuela nor anywhere else.

Guaido, who arrived on the scene in 2015, was elevated from being a little
known politician to the anti-socialism hero designated by Washington to
reclaim Venezuela in the name of liberal democracy. Guaido’s legitimacy was
largely derived from the Venezuelan opposition’s victory
<https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/07/world/americas/venezuela-elections.html>
in the elections of that same year.

Since then, however, Guaido’s own legitimacy has slowly eroded. By
disproportionately investing in Washington’s ability to oust Maduro through
severe sanctions, diplomatic delegitimization and political pressure,
Guaido slowly abandoned his initial Venezuela-centric approach, thus
delegitimizing himself instead, even among his own supporters. Frustrated
by Guaido’s self-serving priorities, and knowing that the man’s current
strategy would not lead to any substantive political reordering in the
country, Venezuela’s opposition disintegrated into small factions.

In January 2020, another opposition lawmaker, Luis Parra, attempted
<https://www.france24.com/en/20200107-venezuela-s-guaido-sworn-in-as-parliament-speaker-after-stand-off>
to claim the position of Speaker of Parliament. This led the parliament
security to block Guaido’s access to the Palacio Federal Legislativo for
he, too, was claiming the same chair. Images of the chaotic scene were
beamed across the globe.

Venezuela’s most recent legislative elections
<https://apnews.com/article/boycotts-venezuela-elections-caracas-b8641cba3354cf8acca765d0de7d3ca8>
last December have also reflected the deep divisions among the country’s
opposition parties, where some strictly adhered to the boycott of the
elections while others participated. The outcome was a decisive victory for
Maduro’s United Socialist Party, which now has complete control over the
country’s political institutions. France24 news agency captured
<https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210105-new-venezuela-parliament-leaves-western-backed-guaido-out-in-cold-1>
this new reality in this headline: “New Venezuela Parliament leaves
Western-backed Guaido out in cold”.

Actually, Blinken’s call to Guaido, whose moment has faded, is unlikely to
change much on the ground. His usefulness now lies in the fact that
Washington has no other ‘strong man’ in Caracas. Additionally, Washington
has invested tremendous financial resources and political credit which
allowed Guaido to claim the title of the country’s interim president.
Completely divesting from Guaido is also a risky maneuver.

Of note is the shift in language in the US political discourse, following
the Blinken-Guaido telephone conversation: the “importance of a return to
democracy in Venezuela through free and fair elections.” The change is,
perhaps, subtle but still significant, as it is no longer a decisive demand
to remove Maduro from power.

It seems that the distance between the US and Venezuela’s position is
shrinking. In August 2019, the Washington Post reported
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2fworld%2fthe_americas%2fduring-secret-venezuela-talks-maduro-offered-new-elections-is-it-a-real-breakthrough-or-a-stall%2f2019%2f08%2f16%2ff1129532-c042-11e9-a8b0-7ed8a0d5dc5d_story.html>
that Venezuelan negotiators, speaking on behalf of Maduro’s government,
made a “startling offer” during mediated talks with the country’s
opposition in Norway two months earlier, where the government “signaled
(its) willingness to hold such a vote within nine to 12 months,” referring
to the opposition’s demand for fresh presidential elections.

Nevertheless, it behooves Washington to engage Caracas in civil political
conversations, away from threats and sanctions, for two main reasons:

First, despite claims that the majority of Venezuelans living in the US
support Washington’s hardline policies, 46 percent of them also “support a
removal of oil sanctions if the Maduro government agrees to hold
internationally recognized free and fair elections,” according to a recent
opinion poll published
<https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/in-depth-research-reports/report/insights-on-venezuelan-and-cuban-american-sentiments-regarding-us-policy-toward-venezuela/>
by the right-wing Atlantic Council.

Second, Washington’s futile sanctions-based approach to Venezuela has
proved not only immensely harmful to the welfare of the Venezuelan people
but also to Washington’s own regional interests. Washington’s obstinacy
allowed its global rivals, Russia and China, to unprecedentedly cement
<https://www.venezuelablog.org/taking-stock-of-chinese-russian-relations-venezuela/>
their economic and strategic interests in that country.

In their 2019 report, the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
revealed
<https://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/venezuela-sanctions-2019-04.pdf?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=341e96cf869b6a1ca4dc69307ed0bb5955d22ad7-1614895869-0-AWIef2RsKyym1xMoSRYGPxxn6XJXNZ-GxmP4Gg_Ars1eZiFKq3NQ1wsRhusUwc7LDwjuE1uhBFcQ6wRp3LW-b40EDfYLPWVNb-cEaEyxlygr6BXMXYL1QhJHbO0oho1AFkPPwrPcXA1ebWH2Ra6QfYOA4b-ixTAGmpR40-xlJiAhZtJ6UHjy5b9MsJh4HWqbFcUhR0pVt9cCGGSHce5NYc8PdYYlz7AhScVDSIn8rfVO5_VoL-ecmgzTA9DNi2I-MiMt_OgrbQyiINBaKsNxzeUkiOorQhqLbBalUR2P1JWtGChAG1DCaS3-z0cuDLL-jZlotLMa3KEwqS4WswBeCZypv1qTu0AA9362hY6FaPOxGcaJbh3YGEO-l4zvRn1oh6Uy_MA7WUkl6B4p_yH1Cfc8-cure-vbjTT4FBFY_RruIMSDC5BMaCrqI1hvpZBpCQ>
that, in the 2017-18 year, US-led sanctions on Venezuela “have inflicted –
and increasingly inflict – very serious harm to human life and health,
including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths”.

Certainly, there can be no political logic or moral justification for this
ongoing calamity.

Certainly, there can be no political logic or moral justification for this
ongoing calamity*– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The
Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “**These
Chains Will Be Broken*
<https://www.amazon.com/These-Chains-Will-Broken-Palestinian/dp/1949762092>*:
Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity
Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center
for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center
(AMEC). His website is **www.ramzybaroud.net* <http://www.ramzybaroud.net/>
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