A more severe measure would be to sanction the oil industry that brings in most of Venezuela’s foreign revenue. The US is reportedly considering limited measures that don’t include blocking Venezuelan oil imports. But it would likely be the people, not Maduro’s government, that would bear the brunt of the economic hardship, and it could also reverberate on the US and other countries as Venezuelan refugees flood out.

Smilde suggests it might be time for world leaders to try a different tack: be less confrontational and more persuasive. “You have to convince them that it’s in their interest to allow a transition to take place,” he says.

For ideas on how to do that, he suggests looking at neighboring Colombia, which recently ended its 50-year civil war. That conflict is very different from the situation in Venezuela—except for the very similar impasse that prevented the warring parties there from ending their dispute. Aided by international facilitators, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas eventually broke through to a peace deal with concessions for both sides, including the promise that fighters who tell the truth will be spared jail time.

Might that approach work in Venezuela? If so, hopefully it won’t take 50 years.

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