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Sanctions, Cuba, TPS: Biden will change US policy towards Venezuela, experts say

Multilateral sanctions, more dialogue with regional powers, rapprochement with Cuba, benefit of TPS for Venezuelans: US policy towards Venezuela will change if Democrat Joe Biden evicts Republican Donald Trump from the White House in November, experts said.

Both Biden and Trump consider Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro a “dictator”. They believe that his second term, which began in January 2019, is the result of a fraudulent vote. And they support a democratic transition through “free and fair” elections that will allow the reconstruction of the economy of the former oil power, in free fall since Maduro came to power in 2013.

But there are differences in how to bring about these changes, analysts consulted by Latin American Advisor, a publication of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank, said on Friday.

Biden “rejects the Trump administration’s failed approach to unilateral sanctions rather than a comprehensive multilateral policy approach for Venezuela,” said Juan González, who served as the Barack Obama administration’s Deputy Under Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

This is “an important distinction,” said Laura Carlsen, a specialist at the Center for Economic and Political Research (CEPR), because “it could lead to a review of current sanctions.”

Although Canada and the EU also issued punitive measures against Maduro and his government on accusations of corruption and human rights violations, the battery of US sanctions to pressure Maduro’s departure includes in particular an embargo on Venezuelan crude. And numerous actions against her ally Cuba.

Carlsen also argued that with a Democratic Executive, the United States would be more willing to negotiate to resolve the Venezuelan crisis.

“Although Biden has been skeptical of dialogue, as president he would also be forced to listen to calls for dialogue and UN involvement supported by regional powers such as Mexico and Argentina,” he said.

For Ray Walser, retired diplomat and professor of International Relations at Seton Hall University, with Biden, “there is likely to be a new emphasis on working with the Lima Group and others to isolate Maduro and address a serious humanitarian and refugee crisis. ”.

The Lima Group was created in 2017 by a majority of Latin American countries and Canada to seek a peaceful solution to the situation in Venezuela, which in recent years has led to some five million people leaving the country, most of them to neighboring countries. according to the UN.

The EU and European and Latin American nations also formed the International Contact Group for this purpose in 2019.

– “Electoral approach” –

Biden, who was Obama’s vice president, whose government promoted the historic approach of the United States to Cuba, has already declared his willingness to resume that policy, strongly reversed by Trump since 2017.

“Biden’s comments (…) worry us very much, because Cuba is the true dominant power in Venezuela,” said Diego Arria, former permanent representative of Venezuela to the UN.

“It controls its intelligence, security and even military forces, as well as foreign policy, so it should be clear to everyone that opening doors to Cuba would mean closing doors to freedom in Venezuela,” he said.

However, Walser opined that the Biden government “could explore capitalizing on better ties with Cuba to perhaps leverage the removal of Maduro and an acceptable transition in Venezuela.”

Although he warned that with a view to winning on November 3, Biden’s campaign must not forget the “strong opposition” that exists in South Florida to the “authoritarianisms” of Cuba and Venezuela.

“A commitment to TPS for Venezuelans would be a step in that direction,” he said.

Biden has already said that he will grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelans affected by “the humanitarian crisis caused by the Maduro regime.” According to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office in 2019, about 200,000 people would qualify.

The Trump administration has been reluctant to extend TPS to Venezuelans, created in the 1990s to allow foreigners to legally reside who, due to natural disasters or political instability, cannot safely return to their country.

“The refusal to grant TPS to Venezuelans, the continued deportation of hundreds of Venezuelans, and the disappointing response to the humanitarian situation make it clear that this administration’s focus is electoral,” said González, a former Biden adviser.