The death of Hugo Chavez presents an opportunity for the new Venezuelan leadership to tone down the rhetoric of anti-Americanism and put our bilateral relations on a pragmatic basis.
The U.S. remains the principal purchaser of Venezuelan oil which is refined in Gulf Coast refineries for later export to China and other markets. Food and pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, spare parts and electrical equipment are bought from the U.S. although payment for these goods is delayed and consumers must wait 4 to 5 months for the new inventory to arrive at Venezuelan ports.
Venezuela is in the midst of an economic crisis with shortages of U.S. dollars, a devaluation of 32 percent and the prospect of searing inflation. Furthermore, Venezuela needs foreign direct investment, technical expertise and spare parts from the U.S.
Rather than demonizing Washington, an opportunity exists for Caracas to reframe the relationship to a realistic mode.
On the one hand, it's a drop in the ocean, because it won't change what's happening on the ground. On the other hand, it would represent a shift to a more realistic approach toward what's happening in Venezuela. By sanctioning the vice president, the U.S. government is acknowledging that the Venezuelan government has drug dealers at the highest ranks of government.