The US Lost in Venezuela, but Won’t Admit It Until the Election

Exactly a year ago the world witnessed an unprecedented innovation in international relations – the appointment of the president of a sovereign power by a foreign leader through Twitter. On January 23rd 2017, White House occupant Donald Trump publicly announced through this social network that Venezuela’s Speaker of Parliament Juan Guaido would henceforth be recognised as “interim president”.

Of course, this is far from the first and surely not the last time Washington has overthrown or attempted to overthrow the legitimate government in a country by replacing legitimate leaders with its proxies. The North Americans have made similar attempts in the same Venezuela this century, using an armed coup. But still, to present the new head of a foreign state to the public just like that, through the Internet, even without any additional efforts and reasons, is a new word in modern political technologies, which shocked even some allies of the United States.

Recall that back then Washington ordered its partners to recognise Guaido. And if the leaders of most South American countries fulfilled this order almost immediately, some Europeans resisted for some time, calling for dialogue between the government and opposition. However, a few weeks later the Old World surrendered, considering that quarrelling with its main ally for the sake of far away Venezuela made no sense.

So, a year after the beginning of the experiment with the appointment of presidents via Twitter, the conclusion is that such methods have not yet justified themselves. Apparently, the world has not yet reached the latest technologies being developed in the White House. This can be judged at least by what Guaido is called in the media by those countries where he has long been considered an “interim” head. For example, CNN’s headline news of a recent meeting between Mike Pompeo and Juan Guaido reports that the Secretary of State met with the “opposition leader“. So much for “President”.

And remember how a year ago the same Pompeo assured that the days of the legitimate leader of the country Nicolas Maduro were allegedly numbered. And the US President’s National Security Adviser John Bolton was showing the world a notepad with “secret” plans to send 5,000 troops to Colombia, clearly hinting at the possibility of a military invasion. Where’s Bolton now? Who will remember this? And the allegedly “unrecognised” Maduro continues to really govern the state. Pompeo, meanwhile, continues to say that Venezuela’s leader is about to be removed from power. The Secretary of State says Maduro is “not ready” to hold “free and open presidential elections”. Translated from the White House language, this means that the North Americans understand that Maduro will still win in a fair election.

Guaido himself a couple of weeks ago lost even the far-fetched excuse to retain the title of “interim president”, solemnly awarded to him by Trump. On January 5th the Venezuelan Parliament dismissed the Speaker as a result of heavy manoeuvres and physical fights, appointing a new one. It would seem that it is no longer even theoretically possible to explain why a politician who has never participated in a presidential election continues to be considered Washington’s head of the country. But since when did the leaders of the free democratic world worry about democratic procedures and formalities? Guaido held a meeting with supporters outside the walls of Parliament, carried out a “vote” there, and declared himself “re-elected” as Speaker. No one cares about the lack of quorum, the number of voters, or who voted. But this amusing election proved enough for Washington’s statement that the United States continues to regard the leader of the opposition as “interim president”.

Of course, such statements cannot deceive the public. Already, North American experts clearly state the obvious fact that the impudent putsch attempt in Venezuela has at this stage failed.

It would seem that the White House should have quietly acknowledged its defeat, renounced contact with Guaido, who had not lived up to hope, and started dialogue with Maduro. Especially since the President of Venezuela himself openly expresses his readiness to meet with any North American official – whether it be Trump or anyone – for negotiations. Such dialogue is the only opportunity to move from Twitter diplomacy to a real solution to the political conflict.

But it is almost certain that the White House will not opt for such an option until the US presidential election this November. The key word here is “Florida”. In all recent campaigns, this state is the scene of fierce fighting between Republicans and Democrats (remember at least the controversial recount in the 2000 election, when 500 Florida voters, not without the efforts of then-Governor Jeb Bush, secured his brother George’s victory). Since then, voting there has been constantly neck and neck.

Due to the demographic changes that have taken place in the state in recent years, the situation has seemingly swung toward the Democratic Party. Primarily due to a significant increase in the state’s Hispanic population (so-called Latinos). Given, to put it mildly, the complex relationship between Trump and Mexican-born voters (primarily because of the Great Wall project on the border with Mexico), Democrats believed in the 2016 election that the votes of Florida Latinos were in their pocket. But they were sharply deceived in their expectations, not taking into account the fact that in this state live not so much Mexican immigrants, but Cubans and, as of late, Venezuelans. The Democrats and Barack Obama himself couldn’t be forgiven for lifting sanctions on Havana. As a result, the votes went to Trump.

Of course, political strategists surrounded by the American president will take this experience into account. Rapprochement with Maduro, even with such a clear defeat of reckless American diplomacy in the Venezuelan direction, would mean an overflow of votes of Florida’s Hispanic voters for the Democrats, and thus the loss of a key state with 29 electors. So from the point of view of the pre-election campaign, it is more profitable for Trump to continue to pretend that the unelected Guaido remains the president of Venezuela, and Maduro is “about to leave”. Never mind that this is contrary to common sense and no longer has even formal grounds. Until November, everything in Washington will be subject solely to electoral necessity.

Vladimir Kornilov

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