How Should International Actors Respond to Venezuela’s Crisis?

This post originally appeared in the August 18 issue of the Latin American Advisor. 

Now that Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has proceeded to unconstitutionally ‘elect’ an all-powerful constituent assembly to write democracy out of Venezuela’s future constitution, Team Trump should focus special attention on the handful of Caribbean states that obstructed efforts at the OAS General Assembly in June to head off this latest, tragic turn in Venezuela’s deepening crisis.

The United States and its closest friends that exercise real sway in the region—Canada, Britain, the European Union and Mexico—should make a clear distinction in policy between the countries that stuck with the pre-OAS General Assembly/Caricom consensus and those that didn’t. They deserve recognition as regional leaders, enjoying preferential access and the encouragement and support of the bigger powers for their diplomacy to forge a new regional consensus response to Maduro’s latest usurpation.

The Caribbean states that obstructed OAS action in Cancún—St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic—should be encouraged to ‘back the right horse.’ The constituent assembly election gives them a second chance to get it right. Almost all of these economies—even the Dominican Republic’s—are extremely fragile, vulnerable and dependent on access to credit, foreign investment and tourism dollars. Most have lurking about them criminal connections to narcotics trafficking, money laundering and harboring fugitives. Visa access for guest workers or even citizen travel is a summum bonum in most of these societies. Some even face delicate issues over the treatment of domestic minorities, which is potentially troublesome in the international media and before international tribunals. And, since weak opposition parties help many of these obstructionist leaders keep their jobs, the Republican and Democratic political institutes could get to work strengthening opposition parties vital to a truly competitive democracy. A concerted effort by the Trump administration, coordinating especially the Departments of State, Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security, along with parallel efforts by our closest friends, would quickly demonstrate that there’s much more to gain from supporting real democracy than from siding with a dying dictatorship.

G. Philip Hughes is senior director at the White House Writers Group and former ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Philip Hughes G. Philip Hughes draws on a wealth of high-level foreign policy experience in developing and managing message campaigns for international companies.

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