By Maria Páez Victor – Dec 1, 2020
A new president for the USA, a new leaf, new opportunities for a better world.
If that is in the mind of soon to be USA President Joe Biden and his millions of followers, then he would do well to distance himself as far as he can from the ill conceived, badly intentioned policies of his predecessor.
There is no area of foreign policy where this would be easier to do, has few if any downsides for the USA and plenty of upsides, and would bring relief to millions of people in this hemisphere. I am referring to the USA’s foreign policy towards Venezuela. Here are the reasons why this is so.
It is easy. It would be very easy for Joe Biden to distance himself from Trump’s failed policies toward Venezuela as there are no complicated international agreements required. In the scale of world issues, Joe Biden has bigger problems to solve than to maintain a draining state of aggression against Venezuela.
Hardly any downsides, plenty of upsides. The only downside to having a rapprochement with Venezuela is that Joe Biden would displease those who did not vote for him. He owes nothing to the anti-Venezuelan contingent in Florida.
The sanctions have failed. Trump’s illegal economic sanctions- aimed at overthrowing the Venezuelan government—have certainly caused havoc in the Venezuelan economy, but they have not destroyed it, nor have they brought down the government. The vast majority of Venezuelans recognize the USA, not their own government, as the cause of their suffering and rally round President Maduro who is rightly seen as defending them. Ending the sanctions would not absolve the USA of responsibility for the great harm it has inflicted but it would show that the new president intends a very different approach to its relations with its Latin American neighbours.
Joe Biden’s leadership would be more convincing to the world if he would champion the rule of international law. By imposing unilateral, coercive measures the USA and its allies have violated the most important international laws that are the guardians of world peace: The Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of American States, and the International Criminal Court. President Biden would boost the US’s reputation if he demonstrated from the outset that he respects the rule of international law.
Trump’s backing of the extremist Venezuelan opposition has failed. Venezuelans are aware it was these politicians who asked for the sanctions that have caused them so much pain. In an unholy alliance with the USA these leaders of the opposition have been party to the theft of billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets in the USA. They are despised not just by government supporters, but also by the majority non-extremist opposition. They are political corpses with not a sliver of a chance for any political future and President Biden would be wise to repudiate them.
The armed paramilitary and mercenary attacks have failed. With the help of Colombia, the numerous attacks, invasions and assassination attempts have failed to bring down the Venezuelan government and have only increased the indignation of a remarkably peaceful population. President Biden should make it clear that this is not how he intends to conduct foreign policy towards Venezuela or any other country in the hemisphere.
The attempts to bribe, coerce, persuade the Venezuelan Armed Forces to rebel have failed. There is an increasingly strong military-civilian union in Venezuela that fervently defends the Constitution, thanks to the legacy of Hugo Chávez. There are now more than three million civilian members of the militia. Any military intervention in Venezuelan soil would not be a quick invasion but a protracted occupation which would certainly besmirch a Biden legacy.
Demonizing Venezuela has failed, and it has become an example of sovereignty and independence for the entire region. Not even in the Organization of American States, under a most subservient USA leadership, were the member nations prepared to back attempts to invade Venezuela. President Biden has it in his power to reorient the OAS back to the goals for which it was originally founded and for which he will be applauded.
The Lima Group is an embarrassment to the USA and Canada. Professional, principled, career diplomats in these two nations cringe at the thought that for an illegitimate attempt at regime change, they have aligned themselves with some of the most undemocratic, corrupt, anti-human rights, and violent governments in the region such as Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Chile, Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama. People are known by the company they keep. The same is true of nations.
The Trump threats of military invasion have led Venezuela to seek military allies elsewhere. Venezuela is a peaceful nation, never having gone to war except in the 18th century to gain its independence. So, being under threat, Venezuela has made military alliances with Cuba, Russia and China, who have generously provided the defensive arms and communication technology needed. Armed intervention against Venezuela would be met with the help of these powerful allies. President Biden would reap a great deal of good will in Venezuela and in the entire region if military threats against Venezuela ceased, starting with the withdrawal of the Southern Command from the Caribbean.
The USA can again have commerce with a very rich nation. Venezuela is a country rich in oil, gas, minerals, precious metals, and agricultural resources and it is close to the USA which facilitates transport. Venezuela would welcome a re opening of normal commercial arrangements with the USA, as with many other nations, based on mutual respect for the sovereignty of all parties.
There is no obvious reason for the USA’s animosity. Venezuela has not threatened the peace and security of the USA; has not issued any threats; does not have any military capability to invade or attack the USA, or to overthrow its government. Venezuela is not training terrorists or exporting terrorism. It is—by all international standards—a vigorous enemy of narcotraffic. Venezuela has always been a friendly nation. By changing the aggressive stance of the USA towards Venezuela, President Biden can show to the world that he is truly a man of peace and that the USA has friends, not just interests.
President Biden can be on the right side of history. The Latin American region is tired of extreme right-wing governments and is steadily shedding them: in Bolivia, in Argentina, and soon through upcoming elections, in Brazil, Chile, and Ecuador. President Biden can make his mark in history if he stands against the grasping, supremacist elites that have been responsible for so much corruption. His first opportunity to do this will be to recognize the result of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela on December 6th. If anyone knows the value of such recognition it is him.
President Biden can be true to his principles. Finally, we are led to believe that Joe Biden is a man of deep religious principles. So is Nicolás Maduro whose spirituality is well known to his people but not to the world. How uplifting it would be in these especially difficult times for these two Catholics to apply their shared principles of good will to rebuild their countries’ relationships with each other.
Featured image: In 2009, during the V Summit, in Port of Spain, Obama and Hugo Chávez hacked hands. Photo by Reuters.