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Trump Welcomes Wife of Venezuelan Political Prisoner, Keeping Vow to Oppressed Latinos

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President Donald Trump met Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuela’s most prominent prisoner of conscience, at the White House Wednesday night, demanding freedom for Popular Will party leader Leopoldo López “immediately.”

 

The President met Tintori along with Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Marco Rubio, who had delivered a speech against the oppressive Venezuelan socialist regime to the Senate floor on Wednesday. Trump posted a photo of the group together to Twitter Wednesday night, with the message “Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) out of prison immediately.”

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The Miami Herald notes that Trump did not appear to have a meeting with Tintori scheduled, but instead a dinner with former Republican primary rival Marco Rubio. The two appeared to agree to cooperate in the interest of helping Tintori and López. Rubio delivered a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday demanding the United States do more to help López and other political prisoners in the South American nation, arrested for organizing peaceful assemblies.

Rubio delivered a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday in López’s defense, calling him “a Venezuelan opposition leader who three years ago this week led peaceful demonstrations against the regime of Nicolas Maduro – and he was thrown in jail for it.” Of Tintori, he said she “is an incredibly brave woman who does not rest as she continues advocating for her husband’s release and the release of all political prisoners. And continues to fight for a free and democratic Venezuela.”

Rubio’s criticism of the Venezuelan socialist government, under whose leadership inflation has spiked and food shortages have forced 15 percent of the population to rely on garbage for sustenance, echoes that of Trump as a Republican presidential candidate. “Venezuela is a beautiful, vibrant, and resource-rich country, filled with amazing and hardworking people. But Venezuela has been run into the ground by socialists,”  Trump said in September. Trump later repeated his promise to advocate against the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro in Florida, home to the nation’s largest Venezuelan population.

The Venezuelan government arrested López in 2014 for organizing a peaceful anti-socialist protest and sentenced him to 13 years in prison. Tintori has since taken on the mantle of advocating for the freedom of Venezuelans worldwide. In December, Tintori chained herself to the walls of the Vatican seeking a meeting with Pope Francis but did not receive an invitation. The Pope met with her once months before that protest. In his meeting with Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, however, Pope Francis vowed to “take any step that would contribute to resolving open questions and generate greater trust between the parties.”

President Trump repeatedly promised Latin Americans from oppressed countries that he would use the Oval Office to advocate for freedom in their homelands. He particularly singled out Venezuela and Cuba, the latter with which President Barack Obama expanded diplomatic relations, as requiring his attention.

President Trump has also made empowering women a priority of his administration.

Trump’s commitment to the anti-leftist cause of Cuban- and Venezuelan-Americans resonated with Latino voters. More than half of Cuban-American voters in Florida chose Trump in November; some in the media attributed his national win to Latinos winning Florida for the Republican candidate. Venezuelan voters remain a much smaller group due to their recent arrival to the United States, but their higher educational and English-speaking levels suggest they will soon become a formidable voting block.
For their support of Trump, anti-leftist Latinos became the target of scorn for many on the extreme left. The pro-Maduro, pro-Castro regime regional outlet Telesur, for example, published a story describing online pro-Trump Latino communities as “cesspools of xenophobia and racism.”
Trump’s meeting with Tintori, and his administration’s latest moves against the Maduro regime, highlight Trump’s willingness to keep his promises to the Latino community.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Maduro’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, now a designated “Drug Kingpin” for his association to a variety of cocaine trafficking and terrorist outlets, including the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Hezbollah. Standing side-by-side with Tintori will play as a resounding “no” to Maduro’s demand for a public apology for those sanctions.

 


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