President Donald Trump sent a message of solidarity to pro-democracy protesters in Venezuela during the State of the Union Address Tuesday and took the opportunity to warn those enamored by socialism in the United States that the ideology is incompatible with American values.
“Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim President, Juan Guaidó,” President Trump noted, explaining the rationale behind the decision. “We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom — and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair.”
Trump then turned to socialism generally, stating that Americans are “alarmed” by those who suggest that the ideology that turned the nation with the world’s largest known oil reserves into a country where the average citizen cannot procure three meals a day to feed themselves.
“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” he told Congress. “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”
“Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Trump concluded.
Trump has previously used the State of the Union address to identify socialism as a threat. Last year, he identified Venezuela and Cuba as violent socialist dictatorships, celebrating action that his administration took to weaken these regimes and aid in the liberation of their people. In September, before the global audience at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump similarly urged the world “to resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.”
“Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption, and decay. Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion, and oppression,” Trump said at the time.
His remarks on Tuesday gain renewed significance in light of the victories of several lawmakers during the 2018 midterm elections who embraced the term “socialist” to describe their policies, most prominently Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who has embraced the democratic socialist moniker.
Trump’s support for Guaidó, who has been president of Venezuela for two weeks despite socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s refusal to vacate the presidential palace, also comes at a pivotal time for the country. Much of the free world has received Guaidó’s diplomats and the U.S. has rejected Maduro’s demand to recall its diplomats, but Maduro remains in control of the nation’s military, using it to suppress protests through imprisonment and killing.
Trump was among the first world leaders to recognize Guaidó as a legitimate head of government, and now one of dozens of world leaders to do so, including most in Latin America. Trump has also had at least one phone conversation with Guaidó in which, according to the White House, both “agreed to maintain regular communication to support Venezuela’s path back to stability, and to rebuild the bilateral relationship between the United States and Venezuela.”