As Washington and Moscow face off over Venezuela, the Caribbean has become a focal point for global politics for the first time since the Cold War.
The U.S. and its allies have recognized Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela and demanded that Nicolás Maduro step aside, doubling down on sanctions against the dictator and his allies in Havana. Guaidó has called on Venezuelans to turn out Wednesday for what he hopes will be the largest demonstration in the country’s history. Yet Maduro is standing his ground, backed financially by China and Russia, and receiving military and security assistance from Cuba and Russia.
For the Trump administration, all roads in the Western Hemisphere lead to Caracas. Left to accelerate, the breakdown of governance and civilized life in Venezuela can only create more refugees, enrich arms smugglers and drug cartels, allow forces like Hezbollah to insinuate themselves more deeply in the region. On the other hand, a return to some kind of stability under a pro-business government would initiate an economic recovery that would help the people of Venezuela and their neighbors alike, and deprive the terror cartels of much of their arms and funding. Crucially, if Venezuelan oil production recovers, it would help stabilize world energy markets and significantly increase American leverage with both Russia and Iran.
MADURO WAS ‘READY’ TO LEAVE VENEZUELA BEFORE RUSSIA CONVINCED HIM TO STAY, POMPEO TELLS FOX NEWS
Maduro’s downfall would also be a major political victory for the Trump administration. Russia, however, hopes to repeat in Venezuela the humiliation it inflicted on the West in Syria. It has increased its support for Maduro, sending him military personnel and equipment and helping Venezuela evade U.S. sanctions. An American “win” in Venezuela would send a clear message around the world. So would a loss.
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Domestically, overthrowing the socialist regime would please Trump’s base as well as demonstrate that his foreign-policy team can do more than talk tough. It could particularly please voters in Florida, whose support is essential to GOP hopes in 2020. A humiliating setback ahead of the election would be a major blow. Team Trump is well aware of the stakes.
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