With less than two weeks left before Venezuelans vote on a constitution-drafting constituent assembly, the Trump administration jumped into the fray, threatening to impose economic sanctions if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro moves to rewrite the constitution to his liking.
With that, Washington took a step down a path filled with landmines. The Trump administration is not wrong to exert pressure on the increasingly undemocratic Venezuelan regime. The Venezuelan people deserve international support.
But in seeking to influence events in Venezuela, Washington should maneuver very carefully. The key to successful outside support is preventing Maduro from successfully framing this conflict as one between Venezuela and the United States, something he is very visibly trying to do. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft U.S. policy. Doing it the wrong way could easily make the situation much worse by unwittingly handing a victory to the regime, a defeat to the opposition, and more hardship to the Venezuelan people, whose plight becomes increasingly desperate with every passing day.