The United States has had an eventful relationship with countries of Latin America. Latin America has historically been the US’s backyard as far as foreign policy is concerned (Cottam 4).
Given its diversity and active politics, various US administrations since Kennedy have focused on different issues including military operations to achieve predetermined political and social ambitions, narcotics control, humanitarian interventions and economic aid to Latin America.
Sullivan reinforces Cottam’s suggestion that US policy concerns in Latin America mainly center on US funding for democracy projects, oil issues, human rights concerns, counter-narcotics and concerns about Venezuela’s involvement in Latin American politics (3).
US policy images on Venezuela Relations
A keen observer can easily note that Venezuela features in all the above policy issues. Hugo Chavez had led the country since 1998 safe for a brief period in 2002 when he was overthrown through popular protests and pressure from the military.
Given his position as leader of the country, his stance on US policies and his pursuit of populist policies in the country and elsewhere in Latin America, Chavez remains a key figure to success or failure of US policies in Venezuela.
Despite close relations between US and Venezuela, there has been friction between him and various US administrations.
During all those times, US foreign officials have been careful on their wording on Venezuela, especially stressing on the need for Chavez to accommodate some of the opposition’s grievances and Chavez’s adherence to democratic principles. It is important to note that the US’s approach in Venezuela is chiefly aimed at ensuring a continued steady supply of oil to the US at a reasonable and stable price.
According to Clemente, some scholars on US’s Latin American policy conclude that US foreign policy officials view Latin American people, including Venezuela as temperamental, immature and incapable of self-governance (60).
There is reluctance or plain lack of effort on the part of US officials to try to learn the exact needs of people of Venezuela. Clemente further asserts that many at times, US officials will ascribe negative moral traits to Latin American leaders like Chavez when these leaders oppose policies fronted by the US in South America (60).
The above view by US officials fuels the image of inferior people in Venezuela, who have to subscribe to superior and seemingly “correct” US direction in the region. This perhaps informed the Bush administration’s support of the coup in Venezuela and support for opponents of Chavez in the pretext of promoting democracy.
The result of the above approach has been formulation of a somehow flawed US policy on Venezuela that is characteristic of unequal footing and lack of mutual trust. It is fair to conclude that the above image on Venezuela by the US is a little misguided. As such, its policy on the country is also likely to be error-prone, which may not be helpful in the long-term to US interests in the country.
The above image by US officials has always been a pretext for intervention in Venezuela (Domingue and Fernandez de Castro 1). As noted earlier, the US has intervened in Venezuela through assistance of anti-Chavez groups that apparently promote democracy.
The approach based on the above image has so far elicited unwanted reactions from Venezuela whose leader has embarked on a diplomatic counteroffensive in Latin America to counter US policies. Given the successful fueling of anti-US sentiment in Latin America by Venezuela, it is highly likely that US policy in the region will continue to meet resistance on various quarters.
There is need for a shift in the thinking of US policymakers concerning the region. Continued basing of the policies on the above images will likely fuel a more interventionist-oriented US approach in South America which is likely to lead to more backlash.
Clement, Christopher. “Latin American Perspectives: Venezuelan Exceptionalism Revisited”. New Perspectives on Politics and Society. 32. 3 (2005): 60-78.
Cottam, Martha. Images and Intervention: U.S. Policies in Latin America, Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh Press, 1994. Print.
Domingue, Jorge, and Fernandez de Castro, Rafael. Contemporary U.S.-Latin American Relations: Cooperation or Conflict in the 21st Century, New York: Taylor and Francis, 2010. Print.
Sullivan, Mark. Venezuela: Political Conditions and U.S. Policy, Washington: US Congress, 2005. Print.