(How would you advise the next President to approach Hugo Chavez?) I think the first thing we've learned after the last eight years is to not approach him confrontationally, it just boosts his standing and alienates other friends in Latin America. We need to go through other countries like Brazil that also have an interest in keeping Chavez in check. The second rule is to appeal to Chavez on his interests. (In terms of other culpabilities, the US believes Chavez is supporting the FARC rebels. Obama has said he would bring those issues out in the open. Is that good policy?) Well Chavez needs to understand clearly that the US is not interested in punishing him for the past, but the US wants to preserve peace and stability in the future. That has to be the focus. This is an issue of support for guerilla groups that can fracture the whole hemisphere. It's not in Chavez's interest to support such guerilla groups. (Why would the US want to engage in diplomacy with a country whose president tells his citizens to inform on any other people who has done something wrong to the country?) There is an opportunity to influence Chavez's domestic policies. He is sensitive to national perception. He understands that the US has power. (How important is coming to an accord with Venezuela to the US's overall position in Latin America?) It's critical. The US has been counterproductive in dealing with the Venezuelan challenge. This is an opportunity to start afresh.
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