Hugo Chávez poses a challenge to U.S. interests in the Americas.
Just how much of a challenge, though, is a matter of disagreement among experts. With Venezuelan oil revenues soaring and U.S. influence damaged by Iraq and inequalities in the region, Chávez has successfully managed to broaden and deepen his own influence and appeal while serving as an active spoiler for the United States. Not surprisingly, this situation has spurned a host of reactions in the U.S. government and beyond regarding the seriousness of the problem and what to do.
Living with Hugo: U.S. Policy Toward Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, sponsored by the Council’s Center for Preventive Action, proposes a strategic framework for U.S. policy toward Venezuela that in the long term is more likely to dilute Chávez’s appeal and power than an approach based on direct confrontation. Richard Lapper argues that the aim is not to exaggerate the threat and recommends a policy in which the United States makes clear its willingness to cooperate with Caracas on pragmatic issues of mutual interest (despite Chávez’s overblown rhetoric), while at the same time seeking to develop an understanding with select Latin American leaders on how to respond if Chávez crosses certain red lines in his foreign and domestic policies. As such, this report makes a practical and much-needed contribution to a debate that is sure to grow more heated and important with time.