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OpinionEditorial

Venezuela needs savvy U.S. help

Will the Trump administration be able to thread the needle?

Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, yells

Juan Guaido, president of the National Assembly, yells during a pro-opposition rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 23, 2019. Credit: Bloomberg/Carlos Becerra

Venezuela is amid a humanitarian crisis. Our Latin American neighbor has suffered through a pinwheeling economy dependent on oil. That and years of authoritarian leadership from former President Hugo Chávez and now his loyalist President Nicolas Maduro have led to widespread hunger and hyperinflation.

Reports have depicted Venezuelans rooting through refuse for food, suffering through power outages and enduring a health system near collapse. Weekly salaries might cover the cost of a meal. Faucets are dry, finding clean water is now a struggle and disease is spreading.

Last week, Maduro took steps to lift an embargo on Red Cross relief. That hasn’t stopped waves of Venezuelans from fleeing, while the government cracks down on protesters and blames the chaos on everyone but itself.

It has been tense since 35-year-old opposition leader Juan Guaidó in January proclaimed himself president-elect. The United States is among more than 50 countries supporting him, hoping someone can bring order.

Sober U.S. leadership is necessary. That’s because of America’s role as a superpower, its ties to a nation in our hemisphere, and the fact that Maduro and his government have welcomed Russian planes and personnel. America’s goals must be to discourage bloodshed and find a way to help stabilize a country with millions of desperate people. Top diplomats should find a way to do this without intrusive military intervention.

Latin America has had enough U.S. tampering in the past and Maduro plays into this history. In a tweet Thursday he called the opposition “diabolical puppets.” Will President Donald Trump’s administration be able to thread the needle? With intervention hawks such as National Security Adviser John Bolton at the negotiating table, that might be dicey.

Trump needs to display a steady hand here. For the sake of Venezuelan citizens and Latin American stability, it’s time for the U.S. to lead.

 — The editorial board

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