America’s Carrot and Stick Policy Toward Maduro Regime

A movie can have two possible conclusions: a good one and a bad one. Those who have found themselves on the United States' most-wanted list have ended up in a bad place

U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., March 20, 2020. EFE

Spanish – On Thursday, March 26, U.S. Attorney General William Barr presented the charge of narcoterrorism against Nicolás Mauro, Diosdado Cabello, Tareck El Aissami, and other criminals. The top five ones were not only listed as “most-wanted,” but a reward was announced for information about them. The reward for Maduro is 15 million USD and ten million for Cabello.

The waterline has been torpedoed. Now, we just have to wait for the red ship to finish sinking. The times will be defined by the actors involved, and the urgency forces us to move faster. The death toll keeps rising with every passing day.

The movie can have two possible conclusions: a good one and a bad one. Those who have found themselves on the United States’ most-wanted list have ended up in a bad place. Just look at Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or Chapo Guzmán. They got out the hard way. William Barr is showing them the stick. But it is still carrot and stick politics.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed the regime the carrot on Tuesday. Pompeo presented what he called the Democratic Framework for Venezuela, which outlines a proposal for a negotiated sequenced transition. It is a way to avoid the worst hardships. The idea is to reduce the inherent costs of overthrowing a gang of drug traffickers in the government. It is Pompeo’s ultimate offer to some of the crewmen on a sinking ship to jump on the boat he is sending their way.

The State Department is proposing to Chavismo the possibility of lifting all sanctions in exchange for the following: the release of political prisoners, recognition of the National Assembly, the immediate withdrawal of all security forces from Venezuela, and the formation of a Council of State that would exclude Guaidó and Nicolás Maduro, come from the National Assembly, take into account Chavismo and the current military high command. This Council would appoint a new temporary president.

There are many ways to interpret the State Department’s proposal. We can say that countless voices (not allies, of course) have asked the United States to lift the sanctions on Venezuela because of the pandemic afflicting the world. The United States will not do it, of course, but today, it has put a proposal on the table to lift sanctions and makes it clear that it is up to the will of the parties. Since it is unachievable, everything will remain the same.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, what the media has picked up on is that the United States is asking Guaidó and Maduro to step aside. Pompeo and Abrams insist that it is not that they are sending Guaidó away, but they see him more as a good presidential candidate. It is interesting because Guaidó is useful and valuable insofar as he is the interim president of Venezuela and is leading a transition. The United States, it is clear, no longer sees Guaidó as the right man for the transition.

The previous consideration is irrelevant because the truth is that at this point, Guaidó nor Maduro matter too much. Debating about them, today’s marginalized actors is like going around in circles. Pompeo did not speak to them. His message was to those around the tyrant. The ones who, if they give information about Maduro, will not only get a good deal of money but could also participate in a Council of State that would give them legitimacy, propel them as heroes, and turn them into men of the transition.

It is the carrot of this story. After showing the carrot, this could be the last chance, not for Maduro but for those who support him. America’s invitation is clear and quite tempting. Either they put an end to the Maduro regime, or they let someone else do their dirty work. Then, they will all go down, much more traumatic, of course. At this end, there will be no boat coming to save them.

“This is an important message for the drug lords: there is no safe haven for them. Their wealth and firepower cannot protect them forever,” said William Barr in 1992, when, as Attorney General, he convicted Noriega of drug trafficking charges.

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