I suppose that it will seem weird to read that I am thanking at the same time both sides of US political divide. Or that, for that matter, I am picking Senator Rubio over, say, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. But please, bear with me, those will be, at the end, mere details.
What you have achieved in Venezuela, the Senator and his allies by forcing passage of a sanction law against Human Rights violators in Venezuela, and the President by finally applying it to 7 serious cases (and more to come?), is quite remarkable even if right now the casual observer may think it to be a diplomatic disaster for the US. Like many an historical good and well intentioned initiative from the US this one came out in a rather clunky presentation and on the surface seems to have united Latin America around its atavic anti US posture. Some even say that Maduro is reinforced, that the opposition received a patriotic blow that could endanger the electoral results of this year. All this is irrelevant.
First, no matter what the US did in recent weeks, its influence on Venezuelan elections is near nil. These will be rigged, if held at all. That the US may be offering an excuse to Maduro's regime to cancel the election is just that, an excuse for Maduro who probably had 10 other excuses in the waiting. One cannot bend to the foul winds of excuses.
Second, that this has united Latin America around Venezuela and against the US is a non sequitur. Just as in the US the far right used anti USSR rhetoric, and then anti gay rhetoric for fund raising, so keeps doing all of Latin America when convenient with anti US positions. Even your supposed ally, Colombia with president Santos, has certainly not rushed forward to offer himself as a mediator in your dispute with Venezuela. Resentment and envy will magnify for the foreseeable future any historical grievance, justified or not, against the US. It is a fact of life, no matter what the US does, it will be ALWAYS too much or too little, NEVER just right.
The fact of the matter here is that as long as Latin America does not decide to deal with the chavista monster inside that hey have been enabling there is nothing the US can do to help. And if right now they are jumping at you it is because they do not like to have their faces rubbed into their stinky mess. They all know that in the end the US will be proven right, and thus they do all what they can to push you aside. And they will continue and will do so until the whole thing explodes in their face. This week, for example, they elected Almagro for OAS secretary, who promises to work even harder than outgoing Insulza did at degrading the OAS to below nothingness. But trust me, the US will have the last laugh. Then again I am silly, you probably know that already.
But back to Venezuela and the successes that you have already achieved and that nobody seems to be noticing except a few trained Cassandras like me.
On the regime side you have exposed its crassness to levels that even myself find surprising. Forcing school students, even elementary school students, to sign a petition against President Obama executive order to remove US visas to a few crooks, abusers and narco traffickers, is a good candidate for the annals of "ridicule in fascism". Many of these kids belong to a hugely dysfunctional education system and thus may not know anything about the US but McDonald and TV cartoons. A limited knowledge in the best of cases to take such a transcendental political stand. There have been more pressures from the regime to force people to support its cause, but after the one about school kids signing there is no point in discussing these other psychological crimes.
I, for one, suspect that many a parent that was sitting on the fence will secretly be upset at the manipulation of their kid and may now come down from that fence sooner than later.
But on the opposite side you scored big, really big. There has been a clear divide exposed inside the opposition reactions. On one side there has been a minority of principled leaders that have not been afraid to state that the US action is justified, that the 7 (and more to come?) that were banned from any type of intercourse with the US are indeed a danger. A danger because indeed they are human right violators (promoting immigration to the US?). A danger because their money laundering operations can only bring to the US Venezuelan corruption. A danger because Venezuela has become a narco traffic highway.
What is sad, really sad, is that a larger sector of the opposition has chosen to either remain silent or play the regime's game of pretending that this visa removal is actually a direct intervention into our internal affairs. I even heard the argument that if you do ban a criminal from going to the US then you can ban anyone that looks crossly at you. Not one of them, of course, demands investigations inside Venezuela of those 7 to prove the US decision wrong... they do not even question that one of them was immediately named interior minister! Cheap patriotism at its worst.
I think that exposing this divide is an excellent thing. If by any chance elections are indeed held; if by any chance, no matter how biased toward the regime the election is, the opposition were to win; even if by any chance UNASUR would find some guts to demand to Maduro that at least his electoral cheating is not that obvious, the winning side will implode fast. Nothing less than the secretary of a large opposition group has his relatives involved in all sorts of business deals with the regime. Nothing less than an opposition governor is positioning himself as the regime's choice to lead the opposition. For too many inside the opposition the goal is to seek an elected job so that they can share some of the loot with the regime. Making the necessary painful changes? No way, Jose!
In short what I am stating is that the Presidential order to ban 7 crooks from the US has revealed that the regime is in a move that may include methods that would make the Prince of Salina proud (Il Gattopardo). Change something, give the opposition some stuff, so that the core of power (and freedom from judicial prosecution) remains in the hands of the regime. Whether this move is real is irrelevant: we know now that there are enough inside the opposition willing to play a game that will prolong Venezuela's agony.
That is why I hope that you will keep a steady hand, that you will not cave into the ridiculous hand wringing of some morally corrupt leaders of the sub continent (a sub well deserved these days). After all you do hold the master card, the one that has the cash that Cuba needs to survive though a transition that has started, even if due to old age. Play that card well and without firing a shot, without decreeing the faintest embargo, the house of cards of chavismo (and its collaborationist opposition) will crumble faster than expected.
My deep appreciation to President Obama, Senator Rubio, Congresswoman Ros-Lethinen and others that have shown they know better (on Venezuela), even if they do not express it in unison. No matter what mistakes some say you are making, you are on the right track.