An eye for an eye makes the whole world undiplomatic

America needs to begin mending relations with Venezuela

On February 27, 2014

In an eye-for-an-eye diplomatic expulsion Tuesday, the United States set a dangerous precedent for pettiness.

The Obama administration expelled three Venezuelan officials, giving them 48 hours to leave the United States. The move comes just days after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro expelled three American diplomats from that country, claiming the officials conspired with those involved in the anti-government protests that have wracked Venezuela since early February.

The protests have been led primarily by young Venezuelans in reaction to the economic and social instability that have followed Maduro's decision to continue to intensify problematic economic policies instituted by former president Hugo Chavez before his death in 2012.

The protesters are calling for Maduro's resignation and a new direction for the country. The government has violently suppressed protesters, with nearly a dozen killed and over 500 arrested.

Maduro, blaming the United States for sparking the protests, expelled three U.S. diplomatic officials. The United States immaturely did the same back, expelling three Venezuelan diplomats.

The appeal of tit-for-tat diplomacy - particularly toward an administration that has so vehemently blamed the United States for its problems - is understandable.

But the childish action could prove more damaging than helpful.

American-Venezuelan relations are rocky, to put it lightly. The United States has a long history of meddling in the affairs - politically, economically and socially - of Latin America and Venezuela.

After a more collaborative relationship with the controversial Rafael Caldera in the 1990s, relations began to chill with the election of the populist and self-described socialist Chavez, who ruled Venezuela through the 2000s.

Though Chavez's policies were hardly endearing to the United States, America's support of a coup attempt against Chavez in 2002 turned the relationship sour.

As protests intensify, Maduro is now leveraging this contentious history to use the United States as a scapegoat. And though that move is reprehensible to the United States, and has been (and will be) unsuccessful in placating the protesters, diplomatic sensibilities require a bit more tact.

Expelling Venezuelans in what was clearly reprisal for Venezuela's move last week is far from the ethic of diplomacy we should embrace.

Secretary of State John Kerry has stated he wishes to improve relations with the embattled nation, saying: "We're prepared to have a change in this relationship, this tension ... has gone on too long."

Improving the relationship, however, begins by balancing amicability with assertive positions. A policy that both recognizes the dangers of overly aggressive meddling while appreciates the need for positive precedents is necessary now.

A change in the United States' handling of Latin American relations is certainly welcome, and necessary, as we become increasingly more reliant on the region as a trade partner.

Continued calls to end the violence in response to the protests should be coupled with a more thoughtful diplomatic approach. Though the United States has little leverage in effecting the outcome in Venezuela, subtlety and professionalism in such a tumultuous time will prove most successful moving forward.



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