Washington Boosts Focus on Venezuela

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2019-03-10

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WASHINGTON —U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser on Sunday weighed in on Venezuela’s raging power struggle between embattled ruler Nicholas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by much of the international community as interim president.

“I hope his future consists of living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela,” John Bolton said of Maduro, speaking on ABC’s "This Week" program.

Bolton said “momentum is on Guaido’s side" but suggested it will be Venezuelans who make sure the opposition leader prevails.

“There are countless conversations going on between members of the assembly and members of the military in Venezuela talking about what might come, how they [armed forces] might move to support the opposition,” the national security adviser said.

Venezuela’s economic collapse has triggered hunger, privation, and mass-migration. Recent days have added to the suffering, as widespread power outages ground to a halt a nation already on its knees. Overall, the Western Hemisphere’s most acute humanitarian disaster has forced more than three million Venezuelans to flee their oil-rich country.

The man who succeeded leftist firebrand Hugo Chavez as president in 2013, Nicholas Maduro, continually blames Washington for Venezuela’s woes.

“We are facing the most serious aggression from U.S. imperialism that Venezuela has seen in its entire 200-year history,” Maduro said at a recent rally of loyalists.

In Washington, meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers are weighing in with messages to Venezuela.

“Your fight for freedom and restoration of democracy is our fight, and the free world has not and will not forget you,” Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said at a hearing last week.

“To [Maduro] regime officials: if you want a future in Venezuela, and if you want a future free of U.S. sanctions that will follow you anywhere in the world, then you must recognize the legitimate interim president, Juan Guaido, and you must not have blood on your hands,” the full committee’s top Democrat, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, said.

Many Democrats back sanctions the Trump administration has imposed on Maduro’s regime but say armed U.S. intervention should be off the table.

“Loose talk about military action actually cements and emboldens dictators,” Virginia Democratic Senator Tim Kaine said. “The only interest we have is peace, liberty and democracy for the Venezuelan people. That’s it.”

America’s top diplomat for Venezuela sought to reassure lawmakers that military action is not being contemplated.

“It is certainly not desirable and it is not the path the administration is taking,” U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams told the panel.

Speaking at the White House last month, Bolton said President Trump is keeping “all options are on the table” regarding Venezuela. On Sunday, he declined to make any predictions.

“We’ll see what happens,” Bolton said on "This Week."