The Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft blog published my latest piece on Venezuela policy, in which I argue that U.S. policy has reached a crossroads. Policymakers in Washington have a choice: they can either pursue the current strategy even as it delivers diminishing returns, or they can shift towards ensuring that pressure is more focused, and tethered to more realistic and concrete outcomes.
Rather than refusing to negotiate relief from broad U.S. financial or oil sanctions unless Maduro steps down, the U.S. government should adopt a more calibrated approach. Pressure need not be all or nothing. Lifting these sanctions could be conditioned on compliance with verifiable, specific electoral conditions in badly-needed presidential elections, for instance, with the threat of re-application if these terms are violated in the lead up to the vote.
This will require a more flexible approach, as I write:
Instead of insisting on the impossibility of negotiating anything other than Maduro’s resignation, the State Department should focus on supporting the implementation of partial agreements between the Maduro government and the opposition, such as a recently-announced deal to address the health crisis in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO
Further agreements between Venezuelan actors will be needed to address the scale of the humanitarian emergency, and U.S. diplomats should work to ensure that these partial accords help build momentum for a broader political negotiation.
Finally, the U.S. should recognize that it cannot embark on a new path alone. A more effective approach starts by rebuilding a multilateral consensus on the need for a negotiated democratic transition in the country. The failed mercenary coup in April and the occasional stray remarks from U.S. officials floating a reckless—and highly unlikely—“military option” have damaged diplomatic consensus in Latin America and Europe. U.S. policymakers need to explicitly reject a unilateral approach, and work with international partners to emphasize a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Read the full piece here.