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Trump Allies and Insiders Urge Caution on Venezuela

September 22, 2017

When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, he reserved some of his toughest language for Venezuela. His rhetoric prompted Bloomberg’s Eli Lake to conclude, “Trump went full neocon for Venezuela. Its leader, Nicolas Maduro, is a dictator ‘stealing power from his own people.’ Whereas Trump was vague about what his plan was for North Korea and Iran, for Venezuela he came very close to calling for regime change"...

Refugee camps are cropping up in Colombia, notes Eric Farnsworth, the Washington director of Council of the Americas and a former Clinton administration official. It’s “unheard of” in the region, he tells me. To get a sense of how far Venezuela has fallen, Farnsworth points out that for much of the latter-half of the last century, the Concord jet flew direct from Paris to Caracas.

A former senior Trump administration White House official explains that figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio have been privately urging a tougher line on Maduro since the inauguration. Rubio is spearheading an unofficial anti-Cuban caucus in Congress. For Rubio and other legislators, the Maduro issue is inextricably linked with the Castro issue. They see the Chavista Venezuelan regime as still very much “a Cuban project,” says Farnsworth...

But no senior figure in Washington, apart from President Trump, who said in August “I’m not gonna rule out a military option,” has openly speculated that the United States could invade the country. Instead, the responsible next steps are “clear,” says Farnsworth, if the United States wants to pursue them: more sanctions, a demand of the immediate release of all political prisoners and calling for the Venezuelan borders to be opened to let in international aid....

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