Shifter: “The Embarrassing Amateurism of Trump’s Foreign Policy Team”

Inter-American Dialogue

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, was interviewed for Background Briefing with Ian Masters, where he discussed the Trump administration’s foreign policy towards Venezuela during this crisis and how their militarist thinking is not the best course of action.

Comments by Michael Shifter:

“Padrino came out right after Bolton’s statement [to say that] he fully supported Maduro, that he backed Maduro, so it’s hard to know what’s going on here, hard to know whether this is some sort of psychological warfare game. It’s mystifying and certainly not helpful…This kind of rhetoric only hardens the position of Maduro and makes him dig in even further. And of course the senior leadership becomes more distrustful of the United States so this is taking us back, not moving us forward.”

“It seems to me Pompeo may be putting Venezuela in the framework of US-Russia relations where it doesn’t belong. It should be a focus on Venezuela, not on Cuba, not on Russia, not on China, but Venezuela. Unfortunately, this sometimes happens that Venezuela gets inserted either into global politics or US domestic politics.”

“This has to be understood in the context of US-Cuban policy and the enormous frustration and disappointment that the regime in Cuba has been there for six decades, despite every effort by part of the United States, including an embargo that has been unsuccessful. The Venezuela opening, and especially the emergence of Guaidó and an opposition that finally has a leader and finally is united, should be seen in a context of an opportunity to move towards Cuba. The administration has announced a very punishing additional sanctions against Cuba, believing that somehow this would lead the Cuban government to stop supporting Maduro. It’s like we haven’t learned anything after six decades, that this kind of pressure tactics and threats don’t work.”

“Clearly there’s a very a strong ideological agenda and desire to project toughness by part of this administration. Senator Rubio’s rhetoric has been directly aimed at the Venezuela generals, telling them they must turn on Maduro and move to Guaidó and that simply makes the generals dig in even more and has exactly the opposite effect of what Senator Rubio presumably intends to have. The generals are not going to react to pressure from foreign powers, especially the United States. That seems to be a lesson that is very clear in US-Latin American relations but that seems to be lost on the team that’s working on Venezuela. [They are] going back to an old styple that simply was unsuccessful and I’m sure will be equally fruitless in this situation.”

Listen to the full interview here