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Andres Oppenheimer: There's no magic wand to wave to save Venezuela from Maduro's grip
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Andres Oppenheimer: There's no magic wand to wave to save Venezuela from Maduro's grip

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Bravo! At long last, a senior official in the Trump administration has spoken the truth about U.S. Venezuela policy, even if it might frustrate the many Venezuelans duped by President Donald Trump's demagoguery about a possible military intervention in that country.

As I've written for years, Trump has damaged the cause of freedom in Venezuela by raising false hopes of U.S. military action. That's led many Venezuelans to stay at home waiting for the Marines instead of taking to the streets to bring down the most brutal dictatorship in recent memory in Latin America.

Trump, eager to win Cuban American and Venezuelan American votes in Florida, has said that, "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option." That has been music to the ears of many Cuban and Venezuelan exiles.

But on Monday, Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration's special envoy to Venezuela and Iran, said Venezuela's opposition should stop waiting for "magical solutions" such as U.S. military might and focus on uniting against dictator Nicolas Maduro.

He couldn't have said it soon enough.

Abrams was asked in an interview with Colombia's NTN24 news network about Maria Corina Machado, a Venezuelan hard-line opposition politician. Last weekend, she broke ranks with opposition leader Juan Guaido, the president of National Assembly, recognized by almost 60 countries as Venezuela's legitimate president.

Machado, a charismatic politician who nevertheless gets little support in opinion polls, had called on Guaido to invoke Article 187.11 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which theoretically allows the Guaido-led National Assembly to invite foreign military forces into the country.

"Maria Corina is entirely free to say whatever she likes," Abrams said in the interview. "But I'm reminded of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous magical realism. What seems to us the opposition needs to do is the very hard work of organizing the opposition."

He added, "Maria Corina, seems to me, is calling for a magical 'Plan B' that is going to solve all of the problems of Venezuela. And who is going to do the solving? Foreigners who intervene. I don't think that's a sensible response to the problems that Venezuela faces, and for the need of the opposition to be united."

Abrams concluded, "So, the task is very hard, but it doesn't make the task easier when Venezuelan opposition political leaders basically say, 'I don't want to do that work, I want a magical rescue.'"

I couldn't have phrased it better. Granted, Abrams may have been so blunt because the Trump administration is worried — and rightly so — about a major setback in its Venezuela policy. A split in Venezuela's opposition will make it much easier for Maduro to carry out his fraudulent legislative elections in December.

A broad opposition coalition led by Guaido — and backed by the United States and dozens of other countries — has vowed to boycott the elections unless Maduro delivers the guarantee of a free vote.

Whatever his reasons, Abrams was right on point. And it would be great if Trump himself would throw his full support behind Guaido at this critical time for Venezuela's opposition.

As former Trump national security adviser John Bolton told me in a recent interview, the president often wavered in his support for Guaido, and his Venezuela policy was guided mostly by "domestic American political considerations" — i.e., winning the votes of Cuban Americans and Venezuelan American.

Instead of deceiving Venezuelans with false hopes of a U.S. magical rescue that he's not willing to carry out, Trump should step up the pressure on his buddy Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, to stop supporting the Venezuelan regime. And the U.S. president should forge an effective international coalition to step up sanctions against Maduro, as his Democratic rival Joe Biden is proposing.

In addition, as Abrams said, Venezuela's opposition hard-liners, like Machado, have to stop deluding themselves, harboring expectations of a U.S. "cavalry" coming to the rescue, which is totally out of their control and nowhere in sight.

For once, we've heard a senior U.S. official say publicly what has been an open secret in Washington, D.C., for far too long.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172; email: aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com.

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(c)2020 Miami Herald

Visit Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com

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Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

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