MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida lawmakers are criticizing President Trump who recently said he would consider a meeting with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
On Friday, in an Oval Office interview with Axios, the president said “I would maybe think about that. … Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings.”
He added that “you lose very little with meetings,” and pointed out that as of now he’s turned a potential meeting down.
Trump also downplayed elected leader Juan Guaidó who has failed to take control of the Venezuelan government despite support from the US and other countries.
The president’s stance contradicts others in his administration. Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo have given enormous support to Guaidó. Last March, Attorney General Bill Barr announced that the Justice Department was charging Maduro with narcoterrorism.
On Monday, Trump appeared to walk back his comments on Twitter.
Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS stand against socialism and with the people of Venezuela. My Admin has always stood on the side of FREEDOM and LIBERTY and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful exit from power!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez labeled Maduro an acolyte of tyrant Hugo Chavez who can’t be trusted.
“His history of repression and human rights violations demonstrate that he is nothing but a liar who does not respect the dignity of his own citizens. Maduro cannot be trusted and diplomatic meetings with him will do nothing to help the Venezuelan people to establish a democracy. I encourage President Trump to continue to adhere to the current administration policy toward Venezuela and I firmly stand with the Venezuelan people in their desire for freedom,” Gimenez said a statement.
Congresswoman Donna Shalala also criticized Trump for his willingness to meet with Maduro.
“The recent reports confirm what many have suspected for some time – President Trump has been charmed by the authoritarianism of Nicolas Maduro. The president’s admiration of the ruthless Maduro regime and its band of thugs is now one the greatest obstacles to restoring freedom to the long-suffering people of Venezuela. This is a sad day for the Venezuelan people, democracy, and America’s leadership in the world,” Shalala said in a statement.
Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, the first member of Congress born in South America, said Trump’s willingness to meet with Maduro exemplifies his incoherent and inconsistent foreign policy.
“Taking a meeting with Nicolás Maduro, who was just indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for narco-terrorism, clearly shows his complete disregard for freedom and democracy and undermines the gains made by the legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, to restore democracy. The president’s words and actions are putting in danger the future of Venezuela, and the pattern is clear: Trump stands with dictators and authoritarians and desires to be one,” said Mucarsel-Powell in a statement.