Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro said he “aspires, expects, and will work for” a friendly relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, despite Trump emphasizing support for Venezuela’s anti-socialist opposition in his campaign platform.
“I aspire, hope, and will work so that, hopefully, with the next presidency with Donald Trump, an independent, Bolivarian Venezuela, peaceful and revolutionary, will have the best respectful relations with the United States of America,” Maduro said on his radio show, In Contact with Maduro (Maduro hosts multiple programs on government media, including his latest offering, Salsa Time).
Maduro said he hoped Trump would “overcome the errors made against Venezuela and Latin America, grave errors committed by George W. Bush that, lamentably, President Obama deepened.” Maduro has railed for months against President Obama’s decision to deem his government a “national security threat,” officially imposing sanctions against the socialist regime for its antagonistic behavior in Latin America and human rights abuses against its own citizens.
Maduro also boasted that he predicted Trump’s victory: “I said it in May 2016, it looks like the currents of change – deep within an American people tired of neo-liberalism, unemployment, hunger salaries, lack of opportunity – are aligning against Clinton.”
Maduro was referring to statements that he made in favor of Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, “my revolutionary friend.” Maduro argued at the time that Sanders would win the election if American elections were “free” and not governed by the electoral college system, in a rant in which he claimed Americans “do not have the right to work, to stability, to a salary, they do not have the right to public health, free quality public education at all levels. Of Trump, he said the candidate “could win given the electoral system [because] he is channeling the forces of change” in America.
Maduro pilloried Trump for months, however, in a manner that makes his current friendly overtures seem superficial. Maduro has referred to Trump as a “bandit,” “thief,” “bigwig,” and “mental patient.” He reportedly sent a private congratulations Trump’s way following the presidential election earlier this month, however, through Secretary of State John Kerry.
As a presidential candidate, Trump made opposition to the Venezuelan President’s socialist dictatorship a staple of his proposed foreign policy. “Venezuela has been run into the ground by socialists,” Trump said in September, “The next President of the United States must stand in solidarity with all people oppressed in our hemisphere, and I will stand with the oppressed people of Venezuela yearning to be free.”
Shortly before the election, Trump reiterated that he would show “solidarity with the suffering people of Cuba and Venezuela, concentrated in the Doral [Florida] area, against the oppression of the Castro and Maduro regimes.”
Trump appears to have inspired some of Maduro’s allies to attempt to improve their standing in Washington’s eyes, however. Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, one of Maduro’s only international supporters, has referred to Trump as a “natural ally” in that he has argued for prioritizing the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Assad, of course, has not done this, instead focusing his troops’ efforts in massacring civilians in areas with no known Islamic State presence, like Aleppo.
Assad’s patron, Russian President Vladimir Putin, has also called Trump and issued a public statement through a spokesman, vowing to cooperate to boost bilateral ties despite a record of supporting America’s enemies globally.