Foreign Policy Priorities:
Venezuela and Latin America

Venezuela is in the midst of a historic economic and humanitarian crisis that is rippling across the hemisphere. Despite the country’s oil wealth, decades of corruption and mismanagement have left much of the populace struggling to buy food and medicine. Nearly four million Venezuelans, or 10 percent of the population, have fled, threatening to overwhelm the country’s neighbors

World powers have been sharply divided in their response. The United States and dozens of other countries in the Americas and Europe believe President Nicolas Maduro is an illegitimate autocrat. They have backed opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s rightful interim president and imposed economic sanctions. Meanwhile, military and economic aid from Venezuela’s closest allies—namely China, Cuba, and Russia—is keeping the Maduro regime on life support.

Debate persists over how far the United States should go to usher in a transition of power in Venezuela. The Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, supports targeted sanctions on regime officials and diplomatic efforts to pressure Maduro to step down, but along with many other Democrats questions the wisdom of broader sanctions or a U.S. military intervention. He also criticizes Trump’s deportation of Venezuelans and calls for granting them temporary protected status, which would allow them to live and work in the United States.

Meanwhile, a number of other foreign policy challenges loom across the region. In Central America’s Northern Triangle countries—El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras—violence, corruption, extreme climate events, and poverty are pushing a record number of migrants to make a treacherous journey north to seek asylum in the United States. In Brazil, a new government has opposed international attempts to curb deforestation in the Amazon, which scientists say is accelerating climate change. In Colombia, a peace deal that ended the long-running civil war is under considerable strain. Mexico is facing potentially its deadliest year on record as its security forces focus their efforts on migration rather than the drug trade. And in Argentina, the specter of renewed economic crisis may lead to yet more political turbulence.

More On Venezuela and Latin America


The Venezuelan crisis threatens the interests and security of the United States and Venezuela's neighbors. The United States and regional partners need to provide humanitarian relief and security assistance and accelerate change to a post-Maduro democracy.


Venezuela’s descent into economic and political chaos in recent years is a cautionary tale of the dangerous influence that resource wealth can have on developing countries.

Latin America

The United States continues to seek strategies for responding to the growing number of migrants fleeing poverty, violence, and other challenges in the Central American region.

This project was made possible in part by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

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