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Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the United States’ sustained neglect of the region that poses so many challenges, America also enjoys many opportunities to help Venezuelan democrats regain their country. A summary of challenges and opportunities follows.

Challenges. Venezuela’s political opposition is divided, scattered, and severely weakened under the dictatorship. The United States does not have a hemispheric security strategy. Latin American issues, particularly when challenging a leftist revolutionary dictatorship aligned with Cuba, are among the most polarizing and emotional of any foreign policy issue.U.S. credibility in the hemisphere is low. Many friends of the United States in the region feel ignored or abandoned.Washington tends to lead with its chin, unnecessarily generating resentments or nationalistic reaction instead of making skillful use of its ample diplomatic and other resources. It also tends to personalize conflicts instead of fighting wars of ideas, needlessly elevating the prestige and popularity of the leaders whose forces it seeks to undermine.

The United States has virtually eliminated public diplomacy activity in the hemisphere, while the Venezuelan regime is busy covertly funding political allies across Latin America and the Caribbean, and buying other allies with cash payoffs that Washington would never match.  Intelligence is pitifully weak thanks to: low policy priorities, poorly conceived tasking priorities that drive collection, a poor sense of how to utilize political intelligence — and therefore its importance, severely debilitated HUMINT assets, and continued counterintelligence concerns about hostile penetration of U.S. intelligence services since the high-level Cuban penetration of the Defense Intelligence Agency uncovered in 2001.

Opportunities. Internal opposition to the Venezuelan dictatorship is deep and broad. The opposition extends through the oil sector, the bureaucracy and the armed forces. Significant areas of support for the revolution are shallow or hollow, and under the right circumstances could become security liabilities instead of assets for the regime.

  • Regional concerns. Venezuela’s neighbors are concerned and some are downright alarmed as the revolution is consolidated. The regime visibly supports guerrilla and terrorist activity across its borders, and seeks inordinate arsenals of weapons and warplanes. Guyana, on Venezuela’s eastern border, is fearful of the regime’s claims on a third of its territory. The Eastern Caribbean States are similarly worried, even as some appear becoming Finlandized. Colombia has a casus belli with Venezuela for the regime’s support of the FARC. Brazil, even under a left-wing president who openly sympathizes with the Venezuelan regime, sees Caracas as a security threat due to the latter’s destabilization of other countries that border Brazil’s long and poorly defended border, as well as concerns about the rise of a Brazilian FARC. The credibility of a non-violent leftist government and Brazil’s economic aspirations depend on a continent free of the social, political and economic upheaval that the Bolivarian revolutionary model presents along the southwestern, western, and northern perimeters of South America’s largest country.

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