Donald Trump sees ‘new day’ for Latin America at Miami rally
US leader warns Venezuela's military it will 'lose everything' if it insists on backing President Nicolas Maduro
US President Donald Trump said on Monday that “a new day is coming in Latin America,” as he sought to rally support among the largest Venezuelan community in the US for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Speaking at Florida International University in Miami before large American and Venezuelan flags, Mr Trump said the US stood behind Mr Guaido, whom the US recognises as Venezuela's leader, and condemned President Nicolas Maduro’s government and its socialist policies.
Mr Trump called on Venezuela’s military to support Mr Guaido’s government. The army could play a decisive role but has largely remained loyal to Mr Maduro.
He warned Venezuela’s military that if it continued to stand with Mr Maduro, “you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything”.
“We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open,” he said.
The military has blocked the US from moving tonnes of humanitarian aid flown in recent days to the Colombian border. The deliveries have been meant in part to dramatise the hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine that are gripping Venezuela. Mr Trump accused Mr Maduro of preferring to see "his people starve [rather] than give them aid”.
Critics say Mr Maduro’s re-election last year was fraudulent, making his second term illegal.
Venezuela’s power struggle is headed towards to a potentially violent showdown on Saturday, when Mr Guaido will try to run caravans of US humanitarian aid across the Venezuelan border with Colombia. Mr Maduro denies a humanitarian crisis exists, accusing Mr Trump of mounting a coup against him.
Venezuela is ready to make an economic rebound once Mr Trump removes his “infected hand” from the country that sits on top the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Mr Maduro recently told the Associated Press.
South Florida is home to more than 100,000 Venezuelans and Venezuelan-Americans. Speaking in the presidential battleground state, Mr Trump also sought to draw a contrast with the policies of progressive Democrats, who he called “socialist,” as he gets ready for a re-election campaign.
Mr Trump said that “socialism has so completely ravaged” Venezuela “that even the world’s largest reserves of oil are not enough to keep the lights on”. He added: “This will never happen to us.”
“Socialism promises prosperity, but it delivers poverty,” he said.
Mr Trump also spoke of the socialist governments in Cuba and Nicaragua, which have large expatriate communities in the Miami area.
“Socialism is dying and liberty, prosperity and democracy are being reborn,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Guaido addressed the crowd in a pre-recorded video released by the White House and thanked Mr Trump and the state of Florida for their support.
“Now there is a debate between the democracy and dictatorship – one between life and death,” Mr Guaido said in Spanish. “Today this fight is existential.”
Mr Trump said the US is “profoundly grateful” to dissidents and exiles who have protested and raised alarms about the actions of the Maduro government. But his administration has also come under criticism for not doing enough to grant asylum to those fleeing the country.
“President Trump is two-faced on the Venezuela issue,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo said. “He talks about fighting the Maduro regime, but his administration keeps deporting and detaining Venezuelans fleeing repression from the Maduro regime.”
Updated: February 19, 2019 12:18 PM