US Venezuela Policy Returns to Diplomacy

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David Smilde

I have a piece in today’s World Politics Review regarding US-Venezuela relations (it is paywalled but should be accessible from this blog). The main point is that the current engagement and muffled tit-for-tat amounts to an effort by the Obama administration to bring its Venezuela policy in line with the larger principles of re-emphasizing diplomacy and dialogue with adversaries, or what the New York Times Editorial Board recently referred to as quiet diplomacy.

Of course the jury is still out on how effective this will be and how long it will last. We have a date for the legislative elections and recently saw the conditional release of two political prisoners. But Leopoldo López is still in jail and there is no indication that the government will stop using its institutional power for electoral advantage.

Furthermore, a governing ideology that always needs an enemy will inevitably find a new conspirator to blame. Guyana, of course, fits the bill. Perhaps more pernicious, Andres Antillano has suggested that the Maduro government is now blaming basic failures of governance on sectors of the popular classes through its fight against “bachaqueros” (people who resell basic goods) and “paramilitaries” (armed gangs supposedly articulated with Colombian sponsors).