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Opinion | Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump

Category: Diplomatic Relations,Politics

During the Cold War, the C.I.A. orchestrated the overthrow of Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Árbenz, in 1954; the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba; and the 1964 coup in Brazil. It also helped create the conditions for the 1973 coup in which a military junta overthrew Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

In later years, the United States backed the contra rebels against the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua (1980s), invaded Grenada (1983) and supported brutal, repressive governments in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

A vanishing few of these interventions came to anything that could be considered a good end.

Here’s the right way to put pressure on Venezuela’s regime: Mr. Trump and other leaders need to keep trying to encourage a transition deal by tightening targeted sanctions on Mr. Maduro and his cronies who undergird an autocratic, corrupt system. Cuba, which is dependent on Venezuela for oil and has close relations with Mr. Maduro, should be encouraged to use its leverage. Mr. Trump and other leaders also need to coordinate and expand assistance for Venezuela’s suffering people.

It’s heartening that the White House sent a diplomat to the meetings, rather than a C.I.A. officer, which would have been a more incendiary signal. Clearly a diplomatic path is better than having the United States meddle in yet another country, an enterprise certain to fail miserably.

But given Mr. Trump’s decision to reimpose some sanctions on Cuba, his hard line on Nafta and his antipathy to multilateral endeavors, he doesn’t have a lot of credibility or good will to work with as the region seeks an end to Venezuela’s nightmare.

Which is cause for concern because there’s no disputing that Mr. Maduro and his socialist vision have been a disaster for Venezuela and the region. Mr. Maduro needs to step down. The country was once among Latin America’s most prosperous nations, and it has the world’s largest proven oil reserves. But after two decades of socialist rule and vast corruption, the economy has collapsed and annual inflation may run as high as 1 million percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Food staples and basic medicine are increasingly difficult to obtain. The humanitarian crisis has caused hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans to flee to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and other neighboring countries.

As a result, although democracy has spread to most governments in Latin America over the past quarter-century, few people or leaders in the region would protest if Mr. Maduro were forced out.

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