Trump, Pompeo Quietly Pursue Hawkish Course On Venezuela

    Curt Mills

    Security, Latin America

    Overshadowed by Iran and North Korea, Pompeo’s State Department sees a third troublesome theater in Latin America.

    The United States prioritizes a Western Hemisphere “distinguished by democracy, peace, respect for human rights, and cooperation,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Organization of American States, the principle organizing body of North and South America, at a meeting in Washington earlier this week.

    It was his first address to the body as secretary, and he didn’t mince words: he called for Venezuela’s ouster.

    At a time when North Korea and Iran dominate the news and capture the White House’s attention, Pompeo stated, strikingly: “There is no greater challenge today than the full-scale dismantling of democracy and the heartbreaking humanitarian disaster in Venezuela.”

    Pompeo said: “Suspend Venezuela from this body.”

    Vice President Mike Pence, who on other issues such as North Korea is an internal skeptic of Pompeo’s less interventionist approach, concurred in his own remarks to the OAS: “The once-great Venezuelan economy and government is now nothing more than a failed state.”

    The United States has not explicitly made regime change in Caracas its official policy, but room for dialogue would seem scant: “The United States stands steadfast in support of the Venezuelan people and their efforts to return to democracy,” Pompeo said. He added: “The regime’s refusal to take meaningful action on these issues has demonstrated unmistakable bad faith and exhausted options for dialogue under current conditions.”

    Echoing language the U.S. has used for years on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, a top administration hawk, said last month “it’s time” for President Nicolas Maduro to go.

    At the end of his tenure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asserted American privileges under the Monroe Doctrine, in a remark that drew raised eyebrows across the region.

    The State Department did not return a request for comment if Foggy Bottom is prioritizing the near-two hundred year-old doctrine in the region going forward under Pompeo.

    Venezuela could be seen as a theater in the broader confrontations with China, Russia and Iran; all three countries are substantially invested in the country.

    Tillerson had made the point about the Chinese, thrilling American China hawks and roiling Beijing, as I documented.

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