US Policy Change in the Wake of the Venezuelan Chaos



The Venezuelan crisis is a turning point in U.S. policy. Donald Trump seems to have suddenly succumbed to the neoconservatives. Some symbolic evidence would be his nomination of Elliott Abrams as special envoy to Venezuela.

Abrams is a “controversial neoconservative figure,” writes the renowned publication Politico, recalling his sinister past support of a Latin American counterinsurgency. Although he had been recommended for a position in the past, Trump had denied him a spot on his team. The situation now is obviously different.

Venezuela: A Non-Trumpian Move

A new variable has entered into American power, as reported in an article by Uri Friedman in The Atlantic entitled: “The White House’s Move on Venezuela Is the Least Trumpian Thing It’s Done.” Friedman points out that no Trump tweet has provided the usual game kickoff.

Vice President Mike Pence was the one who pushed the president of the Venezuelan Parliament, Juan Guaidó, to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate. He also starred in a message of support to the “Venezuelan people” (identical to that of Barack Obama at the time of the war in Libya).

It was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who recognized Guaidó as the new president of Venezuela, backed by the consent of National Security Advisor John Bolton. Only then came the note from the White House endorsing it all.

It is an unusual political maneuver for this administration, writes The Atlantic, which calls it “un-Trumpian.” The American publication explains that “Trump’s Venezuela policy has been carried out by a cadre of advisers who, unlike the president himself, either emphasize American values (Mike Pence) or advocate an interventionist approach to Washington’s enemies (John Bolton).”

From Interests to ‘Values’

In fact, The Atlantic notes how Trump had based his foreign policy solely on America’s interests, abandoning the repeated line about human rights, freedom and democracy (see North Korea). That rhetoric about “American values” was the basis of the neoconservative policies and wars, which Pence has also supported.

Pence’s mere feelings for the neocons make The Atlantic’s distinction somewhat incongruous. It is only a play of light and shadow, with Pence in full light and Bolton in the shadows, a condition that he nonetheless prefers. And the shadow man himself is the true architect of this crisis, as was unveiled in the note that he absentmindedly revealed to the American press, about sending 5,000 U.S. troops to Colombia with Caracas as their obvious destination.

The Vice

The starring role of this crisis for which Pence was appropriately cast seems to echo the exploits of another American vice president – those of Dick Cheney, whose feats are recounted in the movie “Vice,” even if only in a limited way (he was only the battering ram of the neoconservative invasion).

According to the suggestive interpretation of the Golden Globe award-winning film, he saw not just a tragedy in the Sept. 11 attacks, but also an opportunity: to undermine the authority of the legitimate president.

An analogy between the eruption of the Venezuelan crisis and the move that in turn handed the power to the neoconservatives does seem suggestive. Sure enough, as in Cheney’s time, when the high executive’s legal artifice bestowed upon him a power that no vice president had ever had before, so an interpretation of the Venezuelan Constitution has entrusted Guaidó, the president of Parliament, with a power he does not have.

The Venezuela Opportunity

But beyond the suggestions, it is a fact that the neocons were the architects of American policy during the George W. Bush presidency, as they are now of the U.S. turnaround on Caracas. This has opened up critical issues from global perspectives. To date, it has been mentioned that Trump made only one tweet about Venezuela, in which he moreover limited himself to endorse the statements of his “Vice.” It is a clear and astounding lack of interest for such a critical crisis.

It is obvious that Trump is giving the reins to the neocons. It remains to be seen if this is a green light with restrictions or if the Venezuelan affair represents a neoconservative tidal shift for the presidency. In the latter scenario, Trump risks coming to the same end as Bush did, aside from the character differences that would make his ancillary presidency more assertive.

It remains that Venezuela’s critical situation represents a new opportunity for the neocons, as it was then, to stick with the persuasive suggestion of the movie “Vice,” after Sept. 11. We can and must hope that the crisis in Caracas will be resolved by a dialogue between the parties. Unfortunately, the neocons are unlikely to give up their opportunity, which opens up new spaces for maneuvers and influence in the South as well as in North America, and in the world.

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