Biden needs to assert U.S. leadership in Venezuela as Maduro exploits negotiations

Photo: Manaure Quintero – Reuters

 

Any process that keeps the Maduro regime intact will exacerbate intolerable security threats to the U.S. and the hemisphere at large.

By NBC News – Jim Risch

Sep 3, 2021

For two centuries, the U.S. has operated under the Monroe Doctrine — countries outside the Western Hemisphere should not interfere with independent governments in Central and South America. Yet today, we see countless actors like Russia, China and Iran meddling in Venezuela, where the economic, humanitarian and security crises provoked by Nicolás Maduro and his cronies are among the most pressing national security concerns in our part of the world.

The administration should increase pressure on the Maduro regime and its enablers until conditions are right to conduct free and fair elections.

The U.S. should reassert American leadership in our hemisphere and, along with like-minded allies, seek a return to democratic order in Venezuela as an antidote to the dangers posed by Maduro. We must enhance engagement with our allies to better leverage a diplomatic and financial pressure campaign against the criminal Maduro regime and in support of interim President Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has led efforts to restore democratic order in Venezuela since 2019 as the country’s legitimate leader, recognized by the U.S. and many other countries, even though Maduro has kept him from gaining control of several key institutions.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden’s team proposed the use of multilateral pressure and smart sanctions to stop the Maduro regime and transition to free and fair elections. But eight months since the inauguration, Biden has instead helped companies navigate around U.S. sanctions by offering them exemptions. These exemptions have allowed financial resources to flow directly into the hands of the regime, strengthening its position rather than weakening it.

Meanwhile, Biden supports the negotiations between representatives of Maduro and Guaidó that officially begin Friday, with the stated goal of holding free and fair elections in return for the lifting of international sanctions. These negotiations, however, are likely to only further entrench the Maduro regime by buying it time while further dividing the opposition. They will also enable greater Russian meddling in the Americas by allowing Moscow a seat at the negotiating table.

Importantly, the democratic forces in Venezuela and their allies have already tried to negotiate the end of the illegitimate Maduro regime more than a dozen times without results. These failed negotiations have occurred in both an environment of heightened engagement favored by the Obama administration and under the pressure of more punitive measures implemented by the Trump administration. Each time, the Maduro regime failed to make any concessions, and the opposition walked away weaker than before.

The Maduro regime poses a danger not just to Venezuelans, but to the U.S., as well. Sadly, the Venezuelan government under Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chávez, morphed into a vast criminal enterprise that spans the world and engages in an array of criminal activities, including falsified oil sales, illegal mining, drug trafficking, fraudulent infrastructure projects and financial crimes.

Maduro remains atop this criminal network through heinous human rights violations and widespread corruption that reaches into the U.S. and Europe. His criminal network relies on its alliances with terrorist organizations, such as the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional and Hezbollah, as well as security and financial support from countries including Cuba, China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Read More: NBC News – Biden needs to assert U.S. leadership in Venezuela as Maduro exploits negotiations

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