Less than a month after taking office, President Trump severely condemned the Venezuelan socialist government. The admirers and critics were stunned as they tried to deal with the new foreign policy of the new president, America First.
The statement followed a spontaneous Oval Office meeting with the wife of a prominent detained Venezuelan opposition leader. In one of his first foreign policy tweets, Trump condemned Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and demanded the immediate release of the prisoner.
The two years of escalation of sanctions, rhetorical contests and occasional military threats continued to drive Venezuela to collapse. While Maduro is still in place, the appearance of opposition leader Juan Guaidó this week has given Trump a potential foreign policy victory and a much needed domestic political victory, especially in Florida, a state that is vital to his re-election campaign, and increasingly influential Venezuelan foreign community.
After the US state of Guaidó was recognized as interim president on Wednesday, the government on Friday preferred to secure Venezuela's assets, including international reserves, and the US-based Citgo Oil Company for its government. A new special envoy, retired senior diplomat Elliott Abrams, was named to lead what Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo called "our efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela."
The path to achieving this goal is unlikely to be smooth – with the possibility that Maduro could target US diplomats on the ground or lock them up in the embassy without water and electricity.
There are few obvious drawbacks for the president, who promised to avoid foreign ownership and put America first. 19659009] With a few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats in Congress largely support Trump's recognition of Guaidó. The position is particularly popular in southern Florida, where the traditionally pro-Republican Cuban-American community is in agreement with the overthrow of a regime that has joined Communist Cuba.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), An influential voice on Latin American politics, called on Trump's early 2017 Oval Office meeting with opposition leader Leopoldo López's wife and said he was "very proud" of Pompeo's diplomatic engagement with the Venezuelan opposition. The Trump administration "deserves much credit" for supporting the anti-Maduro cause, especially as the president and his advisors "have made every effort not to act without the consensus of our democratic partners in the region."
What you see now is democracy on the rise, much of it due to the leadership of the United States, "said MP Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Who met with White House officials, Rubio and 19659012] Political analysts say that Venezuelan, Cuban and other Latin American voters in swing states like Florida are watching closely what is happening in Caracas.
Chris Miles, a political advisor to the Cuban American GOP in Miami, said Venezuelans from the middle class would settle in this city Often come assets and political know-how. how they make them a political force, like the Cubans before them.
"We've seen this movie before, we know how it works," he said. "We only observe how it develops in a different way."
"If I were Trump, I would need my re-election path for Florida," said a former Congressional advisor familiar with aspects of the government's Venezuelan strategy
Some Democrats do not see Trump's behavior as more than welcome Turn in his report and are skeptical of the legislator who cheers him on.
"This is not about credit. This is about politics, "said Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Whose district has the largest concentration of Venezuelan Americans in the country." I know that the Venezuelan community is happy to have its support It would not be understood that Donald Trump now somehow has the honor of supporting any other dictator on earth. "
But both Wasserman Schultz and Diaz-Balart agreed this week that Venezuela was at least not political is question between them.
"There is no daylight," Wasserman Schultz said in an interview, shortly after meeting with Venezuelan American leaders in their district. "Maduro has to go – that's the overwhelming feeling of the majority of congressmen, of Both parties. "
The attention which the Government of Venezuela has given since this first Oval Office meeting was, despite many other crises, n ur sporadically hard.
Pushed by Rubio and others – as well as Vice President Pence, a devout Christian whose constituency in Venezuela saw an ideological and human rights imperative – Trump needed little encouragement.
But it always seemed a point beyond which the president did not want to go. While he periodically warned that the US military could possibly demolish Maduro, the Pentagon made it clear that it had no interest in opening a conflict in this hemisphere. Maduro's closest and strongest ally was Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom Trump was not confronted. And the prospect of sanctions on Venezuela, which would really hurt it – in the oil industry that kept the country alive, especially through exports to the United States – also risked economic damage in that country.
Trump says little about Latin America During his election campaign, he canceled three scheduled visits as president before joining the group of 20 business meetings in Buenos Aires late last year. The headline of this visit was a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the trade war between the US and China.
Despite this, Trump repeatedly returned to the Venezuelan issue, including during the election campaign last year, when he accused the Democrats of welcoming Maduro to socialism. In Florida, Trump said, unless the Republican Ron DeSantis became governor: "Florida is going to another Venezuela, and that's not good."
DeSantis, who owed his victory to Trump's support, joined Rubio and the new Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) At the White House on Tuesday, the day before Trump's diplomatic break with Maduro's administration. DeSantis later said that he had recommended Trump "to seize the moment" by recognizing Guaidó and discussing the relationship between Maduro and the Castro regime in Cuba.
However, a Rubio employee testified that Trump's decision had already been made. "If Guaidó said he would defend himself as a provisional president," the opposition leader said the next day, "he was recognized by the government, and the conversation was more in keeping with how we can make the United States do everything Doing to support them – recognizing that the international community is doing the same thing, what kind of support might be needed and what action would be taken the Security Council [Organization of American States] and the Security Council [United Nations]"said the adjutant on the condition of Anonymity about the closed door.
How the administration is doing to make sure Venezuela's changes are in the foreground of Venezuelans and other Latin Americans in Florida, even though both parties are watching their votes.
In the kitchen of Pepito's Plaza, a Venezuelan restaurant in a gas station in Doral, a city with a large population of emigrants, four employees watched closely a CNN update on Venezuela on Thursday.
"Although our country does not maintain any great relations with the US, the US government shows that it supports democracy and freedom, especially for Venezuelans," said Glorialba Reville, a 21-year-old food server.
Reville left Venezuela last May and joined their three brothers who were already in Doral, their parents arrived two months later, she said, "In Venezuela, there is no quality of life and no future," Reville said. "They can not go down the street or Roll down the windows of your car without fear of being kidnapped or killed. "
Ernesto Ackerman, founder of Miami-based grassroots independent Venezuelan-American citizens, said expatriates in South Florida, whether Republicans or Democrats, are joining the Recall the actions of the Trump government in the ballot box in 2020. "After nearly eight years of almost complete silence of the Obama Regieru ng Trump represents a determined position Maduro. "
Ackerman believes that the President not only solidified the support of Venezuelan Americans who voted for him in 2016, but also received votes from those who disagree with his foreign policy.
Venezuelan Carlos Pereira opposed An American Democrat who had unsuccessfully applied for a seat in the state of Florida and for the Doral City Council said it was too early to assess the impact of Trump's aggressive stance on his fellow expats a year from now.
"What Trump did emotionally is great, and we should thank him for that," Pereira said, "but it could well be a dog-and-pony show to solidify." Supporting the Hispanic Republicans who want to make Venezuela great again.
Alvarado reported from Miami. Karoun Demirjian of Washington, Anthony Faiola of Rio de Janeiro and Rachelle Krieger of Miami contributed to the report.