Trump team’s involvement in South American affairs is more salient and forceful than Nixon and Kissinger. The CIA’s role in Chile and Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s was secretive.
Now Trump doesn’t have the same kind of patience. The decision to recognize the opposition leader Guaido as interim president while Maduro remains in de facto control is unusual. But it rapid catalyzed the shift in the political standoff in Venezuela.
The US took a three-pronged approach, combining economic incentives, psychological operations and military options. As support is gradually built against Maduro, the disputed Venezuelan president has backed himself into a corner.
Maduro frequently flaunts the strength and loyalty of the national guard. On Saturday, he announced that an additional 30K members of the “civilian militia” would be incorporated into the national guard. But many of the new recruits appeared untrained and out of their depth.
People are expecting a sudden turn of events to break the deadlock, but it takes little more than simple fact-checking to debunk many widespread rumors about Maduro's imminent downfall. Rumors can be powerful prophecies. The real consequences of fake information are yet to be seen.
The so-called “American backyard” has long been the political arena between US and Russia. But Beijing has also stepped up efforts to woo American allies in Latin America. Last year, three countries (Panama, Dominican Republic and El Salvador) cut formal ties with Taiwan and switched recognition to Beijing, triggering strong warnings from Washington, whose envoys were informed on short notice and were caught off guard. The case of Panama was especially concerning.
Washington has long watched China’s increasing influence in Latin America with growing concern. The current situation in Venezuela has stirred fears over the potential for the region becoming a new battlefield with the two countries wrangling for supremacy. Venezuela's self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido has promised China that he will honor bilateral agreements to repay the country’s US$20 billion debt. Beijing is mostly concerned about its financial exposure to Venezuela’s descent into political crisis, which explains its halfhearted support for Maduro.
The Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo 黄向墨 saw his Australian residency revoked. This incident, together with the Huawei-Meng Wanzhou case and the deterioration of US-China relations, alarms many people among the Chinese diaspora. The relationship between Chinese immigrants and their home country is now a source of confusion for many. While playing the role of “cultural liaison” between China and the world, Chinese immigrants are also treated with caution by both sides. The case of Yang Hengjun 杨恒均 and that of Huang Xiangmo 黄向墨 are two sides of the same coin.
The Chinese believe in the magic of Guanxi as safe shield, especially when it’s nurtured with a high-powered politician. However, applying the same logic and courting politicians (e.g., making donations in explicit or implicit exchange for the politician’s official favor) outside China can be dangerous: there are many known cases where Chinese nationals are arrested and prosecuted over national security concerns by US, European and Australian authorities. Putting up a photo with a politician smilingly shaking hand with you might satisfy your vanity, but having that connection won’t exonerate you from the legal consequences of interfering in domestic politics.