Hugo Chavez

Secretary of State Clinton’s congratulatory message to Venezuela on its independence day reflects the State Department’s continued inability to craft a coherent strategy for Venezuela. The friendly message claims ingenuously:

We [the U.S. and Venezuela] share a common history of emancipation and democratic aspiration.

Yet, in reality, it is hard to see how Venezuela—with its historic oscillations between political strongmen, oligarchic elites, and the current Bolivarian Revolution of President Hugo Chavez—compares with the course of liberty and democratic governance in the United States. The congratulatory note continues undeterred:

The development of our nations has been driven by common values and a belief in individual liberties, fundamental civil rights such as freedom of speech and expression, and a right to self-determination. Living up to these values is our shared responsibility.

Yet, if we share common values, why has Secretary Clinton voiced deep concerns about Venezuela—as she did during a July 3 address to the Community of Democracies:

Venezuela’s leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable.

Venezuela’s combative foreign minister Nicolas Maduro lashed out the Secretary in response.

Secretary Clinton, Maduro claimed, has become “obsessive” about Venezuela. He charged the U.S. with engaging in a systematic “policy of intrigue, aggression and desperation” against his country. With propagandistic bombast, Maduro added, “the people of the United States would like to have the political and social rights and freedoms of the Venezuelan people.”

The State Department should spend less time sending congratulatory messages to tyrants and more time worrying about the dangers posed by a Venezuela that operates in support of Middle Eastern terrorism, threatens U.S. interests and security, and endangers democracy in the Americas.

While an independence day message may seem innocuous enough, it is emblematic of the frequent diplomatic disconnects that occur within the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy toward Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and all the other nations that mean us harm.