Venezuela Sanctions Undo Gains of U.S. Policy of Restraint

Venezuela Sanctions Undo Gains of U.S. Policy of Restraint
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters during an anti-imperialist rally with state oil and electric workers at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, March 18, 2015 (AP photo by Ariana Cubillos).

Venezuela is one country where U.S. foreign policy under President Barack Obama had struck the right tone—until a few weeks ago.

A diplomatic miscalculation by Washington has strengthened the repressive Venezuelan regime and derailed the Obama administration’s campaign to bolster ties with Latin American nations after December’s landmark reopening of relations with Cuba. Amid the urgent foreign policy challenges from the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere, the Venezuela debacle has unfolded mostly below the radar. But for those who have watched closely, it seems like a once-successful policy taking a sharply damaging turn.

The unraveling of Venezuela’s economy, institutions and social order under President Nicolas Maduro, with his perennial paranoid ramblings about a threat from the U.S., offered Obama the ideal conditions for his preferred mode of foreign policy: restraint. The more Maduro blamed his country’s woes on “the Empire,” pointing to Washington as the source of all that ailed Venezuela and claiming repeatedly that the U.S. was planning to invade, the more Obama’s attitude of mostly ignoring him highlighted the failings of Maduro’s autocratic regime.

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