On April 18, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor published a Q&A on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo four-day visit to Latin America and his calls for a political transition in Venezuela. In my response, I argue that the trip served as a reminder of the failure of the Trump administration’s strategy on Venezuela, and that there are signs of cracks in regional support for U.S. policy. The question and my response are below. You can also read responses from Ray Walser, Francisco Durand, Brian Turner, and Maria Velez de Berliner here.
Question: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month made a four-day visit to Latin America, with stops in Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Colombia. During the trip, Pompeo reiterated the Trump administration’s call for a political transition in Venezuela. What did Pompeo accomplish on the trip? Is Washington’s push to end Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s rule working? Should the Trump administration be doing more to help Venezuelan migrants who have sought refuge in the United States?
Answer: “Secretary Pompeo’s trip served as a reminder of the failure of the Trump administration’s strategy on Venezuela, and there are signs of cracks in regional support for U.S. policy. Privately, Latin American diplomats are growing annoyed by their U.S. counterparts consistently turning the conversation to Venezuela—even in meetings that begin on unrelated topics. The Chilean government’s subtle shift in recent days has been a clear sign of this dynamic.
While Chilean President Sebastián Piñera remains an active participant in the Lima Group, he has recently embraced the International Contact Group (ICG). The ICG, which Washington does not view particularly favorably, has an explicit mandate to pursue separate negotiations with both Maduro and the opposition in pursuit of free and fair elections. After sending a representative to the ICG’s March 28 meeting in Quito, Piñera has called for ‘greater unity’ with the ICG mission.
This, paired with the Lima Group’s continued reluctance to follow the United States in implementing sanctions and its outright condemnation of a ‘military option,’ is a sign that Latin America’s patience for U.S.-Venezuela policy is thinning. More
urgent, for Latin American governments, is addressing the needs of the 3.7 million Venezuelans who have fled their country.
However, after rolling out new promises of regional aid for displaced Venezuelans on a near-monthly basis in 2018, the Trump
administration has grown noticeably silent on the issue. If the White House wants to continue to enjoy the support of Latin
American governments, it will have to show renewed commitment to funding the regional response to this exodus.”