J. Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy – 2005-05-26 08:45:53
What to Do About Venezuela
J. Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy
OCCASIONAL PAPERS SERIES: May 2005 No. 6 (pp13-14)
A unified front is possible. Further, any Venezuela strategy must necessarily involve the participation of other Latin American governments. A united front against the hemispheric threat posed by the Venezuelan government is essential.
The Venezuelan government world much prefer a bipolar conflict. Its self-proclaimed moral high ground disintegrates when other hemispheric actors become involved.
Psychological advantages. Any Venezuela strategy must avoid providing the dictator with pretexts that would inflate his popularity and prestige – and exploit his psychological instability — or justify his repression and militarization.
The U.S. must avoid enhancing his prestige by assiduously not naming him. It must avoid the look of a personal battle with the American president or a U.S. grab for oil, as any move doubtlessly will be portrayed. Already, at the instigation of Cuba, the Venezuelan dictator is accusing the U.S. of plotting to assassinate him.
Elements of a Winning Strategy
Help the dictator hasten his own political demise. The Venezuelan dictator is mentally unstable and has been under psychiatric supervision for years. He overreacts to criticism, weeps in front of others, and dreams messianic fantasies that make him especially vulnerable as well as dangerous.
A psychological profile report in the New York Times showed remarkable similarities to that of Saddam Hussein. With lessons learned from the Iraq war, the U.S. can improve its psychological strategy and help the Venezuelan leader to hasten his political self-destruction.
Prevent the Dictator from Destroying Venezuela’s Infrastructure
At the same time, however, the U.S. must be prepared to act immediately to prevent the Venezuelan dictator from destroying his country as part of a desperate bid to perpetuate his regime.
Of particular concern is the fact that, in time of crisis, the Venezuelan dictator might be tempted to destroy his country’s economic infrastructure — especially where such destruction (e.g., of oil facilities), would injure the United States, other countries and the Venezuelans who oppose him.
A viable democratic alternative is needed. A successful transition away from the existing regime will not occur without a strong democratic alternative. Friends of democracy throughout the region must provide material support and vocal protection to the remaining opposition members inside the country. This includes civic organizations, NGOs, human rights organizations and political groups.
Working with the OAS and Venezuela’s internal cycle.
US leadership is weak in the Organization of American States (OAS), but it has reasonable and effective opportunities within its reach. First, it can invoke the OAS Democratic Charter. This is the single most powerful weapon against the regime’s continued consolidation, and can even be useful in shepherding a reversal of the revolution.
The Venezuelan government has violated the Charter on dozens of occasions, but it has not been held to account. It has also abided by other provisions and named the Charter an important document. The OAS tolerates such double-talk because few nations have been willing to stand up the regime.
What to Do About Venezuela
Adopting the OAS route would necessitate direct action by the United States, but only as one of many OAS members. A Democratic Charter strategy can only work after a public diplomacy campaign of prolonged and accurate exposure of the regime’s threat to hemispheric security and human rights.
At the same time, the remaining hope on the calendar for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing threat is the Venezuelan presidential election of 2006. Despite the likelihood of a fraud on the level of the 2004 referendum, the Center recommends the following steps:
Sustain and protect (through monitoring and material support from OAS member nations) the democratic and human rights movements inside Venezuela. Expose the false arrest of emerging leaders and send a categorical and unequivocal signal that the democratic process and human rights, properly understood, must be respected.
For the 2006 elections a new election process and model must be put in place so as to discourage or at least encumber the sort of fraud that occurred in 2004. The regime is likely to sabotage the implementation of any new process. This, in itself, will help to cement the paradigm shift in the accurate perception of the Venezuelan government as a dictatorship.
Significantly increase cooperation with hemispheric partners to monitor and gather intelligence about the existing partnership between the Venezuelan regime and state sponsors of terrorism, and expose the Bolivarian/terrorist connections. Once completed, other alternatives for action will be likely to receive multinational support.
The Bottom Line
Time is running out. Venezuela’s increased pace of repression, militarization, weapons imports, and destabilization of neighboring countries shows that time is running out for the Venezuelan people and for the relative peace that most of the hemisphere has enjoyed.
The Bolivarian regime in Caracas presents a clear and present danger to peace and democracy in the hemisphere. It must change. It can change on its own, or it can invite hemispheric forces with the help of Venezuela’s broad democratic opposition, to impose the changes. Either way, U.S. strategy must be to help Venezuela accomplish peaceful change by next year.
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