Editorial Board: Trump has a chance to correct Obama’s mistake on Venezuela

From the Washington PostAS VENEZUELA has plunged deeper and deeper into a economic, political and humanitarian crisis, its regional neighbors and the United States have stood back, refusing to adopt meaningful collective measures to pressure the authoritarian regime of Nicolás Maduro and instead hiding behind appeals for “dialogue” with the democratic opposition. Now the region’s leaders are being bluntly called out by the secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, who says the strategy has been a feckless failure and that collective action is imperative to restore Venezuelan democracy. The Obama adminisration ignored Mr. Almagro when he made a similar appeal last year. The Trump administration should listen to him.

Mr. Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, is anything but the right-wing fascist that Mr. Maduro’s propaganda describes. He is, rather, a leftist liberal democrat who has committed himself to defending the Inter-American Democratic Charter, a treaty adopted by the 34 OAS nations in 2001 that provides for action — including the suspension of OAS membership — when states breach democratic norms such as free elections, freedom of assembly and free speech.

The Venezuelan regime, says a 73-page report issued Tuesday by Mr. Almagro, “is in violation of every article of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.” As he put it, his report is “brimming with abuses, rights violations, curtailment of civil, political and electoral freedoms, poverty, hunger, deprivation of liberty, torture, censorship, and the whole catalogue of violations of political, social and personal dignity.” …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.