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The Rubio Doctrine: U.S. Recognition of New Venezuelan Leader Is Florida Senator's Work

January 23, 2019

Marco Rubio’s efforts to increase international pressure on Nicolás Maduro’s regime, and to push the Trump administration to take a tough stance on Venezuela, have paid off big.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday recognized opposition leader and National Assembly head Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, setting off a potential power struggle in Caracas amid widespread protests. Trump’s decision was quickly backed up by other countries.

The Republican senator from Florida followed a “very consistent approach to show that Maduro was bad for Venezuela, for the entire region,” said a source close to Rubio. The senator’s careful planning over the past two years also included “how Venezuela would be without Maduro and what the United States had to do to make sure that democracy can really take root” there. […]

Eric Farnsworth, a former State Department official and now vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington, said that this week’s decision is partly due to Rubio’s work from the early days of the Trump administration. Farnsworth recalled that Rubio got Trump to meet with Venezuelan activist Lilian Tintori, the wife of imprisoned Venezuelan politician Leopoldo López.

“I think he’s been effective, if you judge effective by getting the administration in the direction [Rubio’s] been urging,” Farnsworth said. Farnsworth noted that Rubio’s constant and public push for additional actions in Venezuela through potentially wide-ranging oil sanctions and the designation of the country as a state sponsor of terrorism gives the Trump administration political space to take action.

“By being very vocal about actions that you would like to see, it creates political space for action to be seen as timely,” Farnsworth said. “We can argue about specific things he’s recommending, but by taking a high-profile position, he’s causing other people to react and move.” […]

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