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Tuesday, 27 October, 2020

Will the US policy toward Venezuela change if Biden gets to the White House?

Experts believe that the Democratic candidate would make changes in the sanctions scheme but would maintain the focus on Venezuela.

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By Kemberlyn Talero.

The United States foreign policy towards Venezuela has been an unavoidable section of the road to the presidency in the US, and much has speculated about the destiny of Venezuela in case Democratic candidate Joe Biden wins or Republican Donald Trump stays in the White House.

During his presidency, Trump has imposed sanctions against officials, companies, and businessmen, tied to the regime, and even Nicolás Maduro himself, to generate pressure. Also, he has supported the actions of the interim government led by Juan Guaido. During his campaign, Biden has argued that the United States should instead lead international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis facing the country.

“Maduro is causing Venezuelans incredible suffering to stay in power. Venezuelans need our support to restore democracy and rebuild their country,” said the Democratic candidate, who also served as vice president, and has the backing of Barack Obama.

You must read KEYS | American sanctions rain on the Maduro regime since 2017

In 2015, Obama was the promoter of the decree that singled out Venezuela as an unusual and extraordinary threat to US security and foreign policy and sanctioned against seven officials and senior members of Maduro’s government, expanding on first actions taken in 2008 by the George W. Bush against Hugo Chávez. That year, the US sanctioned Hugo Carvajal for allegedly conspiring with elements from the FARC left-wing guerrillas in Colombia to export cocaine to the US.

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Lauren Caballero, an internationalist expert and a candidate to the vote in December, says that if Biden arrives at the White House, the foreign policy to Venezuela could be reversing because it is “erratic and has failed” and the results are not the ones expected.

Caballero considers that Biden, in a way, defends Obama’s foreign policy, whose decree was issued amid a situation in which Venezuela was a priority in regional foreign policy, but the current scheme of sanctions had not taken place.

Even if Trump remains in power and once the electoral atmosphere has calmed down, there is the possibility that his dynamic will relax and that foreign policy gets maintained without becoming more radical, Caballero said.

Other opinions

A consultation conducted by Latin American Advisor and published by the Inter-American Dialogue, a center for political analysis based in Washington, which included Venezuelan politician Diego Arria, reveals a possible change in US foreign policy towards Venezuela with Biden.

Diego Arria is a current member of the advisory council of this organization, director of the Columbus Group, and former permanent representative of Venezuela before the United Nations.

One of the main changes would be to grant Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, to Venezuelan migrants while promoting actions to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.

You must read KEYS | Maduro is tied to crimes against humanity by the UN report

However, Arria and others judge that the opening towards Cuba initiated by Obama and which would, in theory, continue with Biden in power is negative for Venezuela. According to Arria, who considers that “opening the doors to Cuba would mean closing the doors to freedom in Venezuela.”

Ray Walser, a retired foreign service officer and professor at Seton Hall University School of Diplomacy and International Relations, said in that same consultation that it is not clear what steps a hypothetical Biden administration could take to address the crisis in the country.

He believes an emphasis on the Lima Group – a dozen Latin American and North American nations that oppose Maduro and want free elections- and other schemes is likely and said Biden’s team seems to favor multilateral sanctions over unilateral US sanctions. He also believes that in the absence of a viable democratic alternative, support for Guaido will continue.

Another expert consulted by Latin American Advisor was Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas program at the Center for Economic and Political Research. She said that with Biden, the United States be less likely to promote military actions, coups, or assassination attempts that violate international law and erode the US, even though the Democrat agrees with Trump in his position of intervening in Venezuelan politics.

For Carlsen, Biden’s bet on multilateral sanctions could mean a revision of the current sanctions.

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