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Still Lost in Latin America

The Obama administration seems to have embraced value-free realpolitik.

8:00 AM, Jun 10, 2010 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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Venezuela is now mired in a painful economic crisis. Voters are supposed to have an opportunity to vent their frustration in legislative elections this coming September—except that many Venezuelans believe those elections will either be canceled or indefinitely postponed. In order to subjugate his opponents, Chávez has been mimicking his allies in Tehran and building his own version of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Venezuelan minister Diosdado Cabello recently announced that the number of pro-Chávez militia fighters has swelled to 120,000.

Even if that figure is wildly exaggerated—which it almost certainly is—the rapid expansion of the militias is deeply concerning. It makes a mockery of the idea that Chávez is somehow a force for “stability.” Indeed, his policies have made it increasingly likely that Venezuela will eventually be plunged into bloody conflict. The longer his autocratic rule continues, the greater the likelihood of serious violence.

Thus, for both humanitarian and practical reasons, the Obama administration should be standing up for Venezuelan democracy. But instead, Obama officials seem to be embracing value-free realpolitik, just as they have done in their dealings with China, Iran, and other dictatorial regimes. Such timid diplomacy, though often described as “realism,” is not realistic at all, if the goal is to foster stability. True stability will only be possible when Venezuela returns to the path of democracy—and that will only happen if the U.S. and its Latin American partners confront Chávez over his dangerous and destructive behavior.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute. 


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