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Diplomatic path best for change in Venezuala

Venezuela Nicolas Maduro
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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017. Immigration authorities in Colombia announced that Venezuela's ousted chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz is on her way to Brazil. Ortega said that Maduro removed her in order to stop a probe linking him and his inner circle to nearly $100 million in bribes from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

APTOPIX Venezuela Presidential Election-4
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Monday, September 17, 2018

America shouldn’t be in the coup business. Period.

It’s a relief, then, to learn that the Trump administration chose not to aid rebellious leaders in Venezuela seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. But it’s worrisome to think that President Trump and his advisers made the right call for the wrong reason — lack of confidence in the plotters to succeed in a risky operation rather than principled concern about intervention.

There’s no doubt Maduro is an illegitimately elected leader driving his country to a catastrophic political, economic and societal meltdown. American officials discussed the possibility of helping overthrow Maduro in three meetings over the last year with rebellious leaders, who had initiated the contact, The Times reported.

Given the turmoil in Venezuela, it is not unreasonable for American diplomats to meet with all factions, including mutinous military officers, to learn their thinking. For instance, who would be in charge in a political transition process? What kind of government do they aim for?

But holding multiple meetings with the plotters begins to look like collaboration. The news was bound to leak out, as it has.

And the rebellious commanders had reasons to hope that the Americans might be sympathetic. Trump last year declared that the United States had a “military option” for Venezuela. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, also hinted he favored military action. In a series of tweets, he encouraged dissident members of the armed forces to oust their commander in chief.

Yet if Trump is in fact tempted to intervene, or act militarily — as past comments suggest — he should contemplate the sorrowful history of American intervention in Latin America and its more recent history of trying to interfere elsewhere to depose dictators and install democracies.

For much of the past century, the United States compiled a sordid history in Latin America, using force and cunning to install and support military regimes and other brutal thugs with little interest in democracy.

Gunboat diplomacy in the early 20th century saw American Marines invading Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to set up governments of Washington’s choosing.

In later years, the United States backed the contra rebels against the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua (1980s), invaded Grenada (1983) and supported brutal, repressive governments in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

A vanishing few of these interventions came to anything that could be considered a good end.

Here’s the right way to put pressure on Venezuela’s regime: Trump and other leaders need to keep trying to encourage a transition deal by tightening targeted sanctions on Maduro and his cronies who undergird an autocratic, corrupt system.

Clearly a diplomatic path is better than having the United States meddle in yet another country, an enterprise certain to fail miserably.

The New York Times

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