“With last week’s significant deployment of United States naval assets in the Caribbean, the Trump administration upped the ante in its confrontation with the Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. For the past 15 months, the administration has applied ‘maximum pressure’ on Mr. Maduro’s regime, with the hope that the upper echelons of the military — the regime’s main pillar of support — would fracture and trigger a return to democracy. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to replacing Mr. Maduro with a ‘legitimate, transitional government.’ Yet as the coronavirus stalks the globe, the ill-timed deployment punctuates a series of consequential but erratic moves on the United States’ Venezuela policy.

“The deployment came on the heels of two other major developments in this policy: the criminal indictment of Mr. Maduro and several close collaborators, and the launch of a democratic transition framework by Secretary Pompeo. Taken separately, they signal the administration’s commitment to toppling Mr. Maduro. Together, they betray confusion over how best to do it. The question now is how far the administration is prepared to go with a strategy that has so far yielded few tangible results and may be making matters worse for Venezuelans…”

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