Marco Rubio: President Biden should stop appeasing Venezuela’s regime | Opinion

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President Joe Biden will be remembered as one of the most naïve heads of state in American history.

From Iran to Cuba to Venezuela, he has routinely appeased our nation’s adversaries only to reward their aggression and criminality. In the case of Nicolás Maduro’s narco-dictatorship, the president’s strategy has completely and predictably backfired.

Consider the events of the last six months: Maduro violently suppressed peaceful protesters, threatened war against his neighbors, and hosted terrorist groups but faced no repercussions from the White House.

Instead, President Biden helped create a United Nations-operated assistance fund for the regime, lifted sanctions from its oil, gas, and gold sectors and released a Maduro ally and convicted money launderer, Alex Saab, from U.S. prison.

The president hoped these rewards would convince Maduro to halt his aggressive and criminal policies and permit free and fair elections next month.

No democratic elections

But in a move that should have surprised no one, the narco-dictator, knowing he would face no consequences for his actions, used the economic windfall to consolidate his grip on power, then banned the opposition’s presidential candidate, María Corina Machado, from running against him.

This has done little to dampen the White House’s spirits. Far from imposing costs on the regime, the Biden Administration is contemplating additional sanctions relief in the form of specific licenses for U.S. firms to do business in Venezuela in the hopes that further rewards will encourage Maduro to do the right thing. The facts, however, suggest the opposite is likely.

For one, Maduro, like all tyrants, is driven by self-interest, and he knows he would receive no benefits (or U.S. concessions) should he relinquish power to a democratically elected successor.

Moreover, Maduro has so frequently violated his promise to permit free and fair elections that his current commitment to do so is laughable. If anything, we should assume that barring a coup from regime insiders, the narco-dictator has no intention of stepping down.

Furthermore, last month, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, hand-picked by Maduro’s closest cronies, revoked an invitation for the European Union to send international observers to the upcoming elections. The reason for this is simple: absent transparency, the Council will have an easier time manipulating the election and its results in Maduro’s favor.

Of course, public opinion polls show the opposition’s new candidate, Edmundo González, behind whom Machado has thrown her support, would beat Maduro in a clean contest.

But Maduro is positioning the opposition to take the blame for the forced sale of CITGO, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, which the narco-dictatorship’s own incompetence has loaded with debt. This proves Maduro, consistent with his record, is already playing dirty to keep himself in power.

Every American should hope for Venezuela to return to freedom and democracy. The way to pursue that is to demand that international observers supervise the elections and build a coalition of nations to reject the results of a flawed election, as the regime lacks all the mechanisms to be free and fair.

No more U.S. money

Above all, the Biden Administration must tell Maduro and his cronies that Venezuela will receive not a cent of American money if he makes the wrong decision.

Regrettably, however, the administration has taken none of these steps. In fact, it seems poised to further its strategy of appeasement.

But as Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” That is no basis for a sound foreign policy.