Venezuelan Conservative Leader: Elliott Abrams ‘Undermined’ Trump Policy with Insults

Venezuelan opposition leader Maria Corina Machado speaks during a press conference in Caracas on July 15, 2015. Former lawmaker Machado, who was expelled from the National Assembly in March 2014 and faces charges of conspiring against the government, said yesterday that the comptrollers office informed her, without much explanation, that …
FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

María Corina Machado — leader of Vente Venezuela, the nation’s only major conservative party — accused top U.S. Venezuela policy official Elliott Abrams of “undermining” President Donald Trump on Monday in remarks that branded her delusional and lazy.

Machado — an elected federal lawmaker under socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro who sent the military to tear-gas her and ban her from her office in 2014 — has for years opposed any dialogue or negotiations with Maduro, predecessor Hugo Chávez, or any socialists in Venezuelan politics. Venezuela’s opposition is currently led by the nation’s legal president, Juan Guaidó, a former member of the Popular Will party. Popular Will is a full member of the Socialist International.

Several other high-profile figures in the opposition also openly identify as socialists. Henry Ramos Allup, of the “opposition” Democratic Action party, is a vice president of the Socialist International.

Guaidó announced an effort last week to participate in legislative elections organized by Maduro, scheduled for December. International observers consider none of the national elections held since Maduro took power in 2013 to have been free or fair. A month ago, Guaidó used that as reasoning for vehemently rejecting participating in the upcoming elections.

Machado made news this weekend when, following a personal meeting with Guaidó, she announced that she would not join his efforts to legitimize the election. Machado published a letter written to Guaidó in which she called some of his policies a “fiasco” and accused him of tolerating corruption and socialist elements in his administration.

Abrams, technically the Special Representative for Venezuela at the State Department, responded to the news of the rift between Machado and Guaidó with a laugh, calling Machado’s rejection of socialists around Guaidó “magical realism” and claiming Machado did not “want to do that work” of uniting and instead wanted a “magical” solution to Venezuela’s woes.

“Recently, some spokesmen of the Trump administration have been saying, ‘well, this could be a fantasy,'” Machado responded in an interview with CNN en Español’s Fernando del Rincon on Monday, without naming Abrams. “The fantasy is believing that this regime will leave through any other mechanism than the construction of a real threat.”

“The truth is that I lament [Abrams’s] remarks because they undermine the very policy of President Trump, who has committed to the liberation of Venezuela,” Machado concluded.

In her letter to Guaidó, Machado proposes a plan of action that involves the international community in the expulsion of Maduro’s regime, citing the fact that Maduro is a national security risk to the nations around him and has ties with a variety of criminal networks whose eradication is the common cause of the hemisphere. Among these groups is the Marxist terrorist organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Brazilian drug gangs like the First Capital Command (PCC), and the jihadist organization Hezbollah.

Machado specifically suggested the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), which requires military action from all signatories to defend any one member. This plan would posit that Venezuela is under attack by a narco-criminal network led by Maduro and member states have a responsibility to defend the Venezuelan state from Maduro.

Machado also proposed the use of the Venezuelan Constitution’s Article 187.11, which grants the National Assembly, the federal legislature, the power to approve foreign military missions in the country.

Machado wrote in the letter that Guaido had failed to do his duties as an interim president and advised, “so long as you don’t cut the ties and links to corrupt people who have infiltrated [the opposition], you will not be able to try to assume the mandate granted to you in the four months you have left.”

Nowhere in her remarks did Machado call for an American invasion of Venezuela.

Abrams appeared on the Venezuelan news network NTN24 on Monday to mock Machado.

“We have an expression in the United States, ‘it’s a free country.’ Of course, Venezuela is not a free country, but María Corina is apparently free to say whatever she likes and I would not try to censor her remarks. But I am reminded of Gabriel García Márquez and the famous magical realism,” Abrams told the broadcast. “María Corina, seems to me, is calling for a kind of magical plan B that is going to solve all the problems of Venezuela and who is going to do the solving? Foreigners who intervene.”

Abrams then suggested that Machado was saying, “I don’t want to do that work” of building an opposition coalition, suggesting she was lazy.

Abrams has famously supported U.S. military interventions around the world for decades.

Abrams’ remarks rejecting Machado’s opposition to negotiating with socialists ran counter to the longtime position of the Trump administration. President Donald Trump has imposed strict sanctions on the Maduro regime — including its top industry, oil — a form of direct foreign intervention. In 2017, Trump said that he was open to sending troops to fight Maduro on Venezuelan soil.

“Venezuela is a mess; it is very dangerous mess, and a very sad situation,” Trump said at the time. “We have many options for Venezuela; I’m not ruling out military options.”

“The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro,” Trump said during his State of the Union address in January, which Guaidó attended. “Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro’s grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken.”

While Guaidó was negotiating with Machado, another faction of the socialist “opposition” reportedly launched talks with the repressive regime of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of Maduro’s most vocal supporters internationally. Henrique Capriles Radonski, a two-time failed presidential candidate that Maduro ousted from the governorship of Miranda state, admitted that he had taken the liberty of conducting foreign policy behind Guaidó’s back, despite not having any official government title. Capriles is a member of the center-left Justice First party. He reportedly engaged in talks with Turkey with National Assembly lawmaker Stalin González of the Socialist International party A New Era.

“There is no negotiation between Turkey and the opposition in Venezuela. What there is is talking with all those who can bring us closer to a CREDIBLE solution,” Capriles wrote on Twitter. “Speaking to a member of the international community is normal when you believe in politics.”

Capriles affixed a photo of Erdogan with Trump to his remarks.

Neither side has revealed at press time what the Turks discussed with Capriles or what role they could play in helping the opposition.

Guaidó published a terse statement through his administration asserting that Capriles’ actions “were taken with neither the knowledge nor the authorization of the interim government, the National Assembly, [or] our international allies.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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