Less than a month after he took office, President Trump issued a tough condemnation of the socialist government of Venezuela, startling both admirers and critics trying to get a bead on the new “America First” president’s scattershot foreign policy.
The statement followed an impromptu Oval Office meeting with the wife of a prominent imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader. In one of his first foreign policy tweets, Trump denounced Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and demanded the prisoner’s immediate release.
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The two years of escalating sanctions, rhetorical jousting and occasional military threats that followed helped drive Venezuela further toward collapse. While Maduro remains, the emergence of opposition leader Juan Guaidó this week provided Trump with both a potential foreign policy victory and a desperately needed political win at home — particularly in Florida, a must-win state for his reelection campaign and home to an increasingly influential Venezuelan expatriate community.
After Wednesday’s U.S. recognition of Guaidó as interim president, the administration moved Friday to begin securing Venezuelan assets, including international reserves and the U.S.-based Citgo oil company, for his government. A new special envoy, retired senior diplomat Elliott Abrams, was named to lead what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called “our efforts to restore democracy in Venezuela.”
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