President Donald Trump has sent out another clear message on the worsening political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, promising “strong and swift economic actions” should socialist leader Nicolás Maduro push ahead with plans to create a non-elected “constituent assembly.”
On Sunday, Venezuelan voters overwhelmingly rejected Maduro’s plan to rewrite the country’s constitution, with 98 percent of the 7.2 million participants voting against it. Critics fear the ‘constituent assembly,’ known as the constituyente, will further cement the government’s authoritarian grip on power by repealing the power of lawmakers and replacing them with local leaders handpicked by the regime.
However, Maduro has downplayed the significance of the vote, describing it as “meaningless” due to its non-binding nature. “I urge the opposition: ‘Don’t go crazy, calm down.’ As president of the republic, I make a call for peace,” he said.
In a statement, Trump praised the “strong and courageous” courageous character of the Venezuelan people, while describing Maduro as a “bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.”
Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.
The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.
The United States once again calls for free and fair elections and stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.
Since taking office in January, Trump has signaled his support for the liberation of Venezuelan people, and taken a harder line against left-wing governments compared to the Obama administration.
In February, Trump welcomed the wife of opposition party leader Leopoldo López, Lilian Tintori, to the White House, and called for her husband’s immediate release from prison. López has since been released but remains under house arrest.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017
The Trump administration has also taken a much harder line against Cuba, partially rolling back the ‘Cuban thaw’ initiated under Obama. Cuba is Venezuela’s closest ally, and Maduro regularly travels to Cuba when tensions rise in his home country.
In June, Trump signed a signed an executive order tightening the enforcement of a long-standing ban on American tourists going to Cuba, over concerns that the Cuban tourism industry benefits the country’s military and not the Cuban people.
Following the death of Fidel Castro last November, Trump condemned the Castro’s legacy as a “brutal dictator,” while the likes of Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau praised some of his left-wing ideals.
“Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” Trump said in a statement, adding that Fidel Castro’s legacy was “one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”