Sanders has refused to label Nicolas Maduro a dictator, or Juan Guaidó as the nation’s interim president — and it could cost him Florida.
“He is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. He has demonstrated again that he does not understand this situation,” Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala told POLITICO. “I absolutely disagree with his imprecision in not saying Maduro must go.”
Of course, many potential candidates have yet to weigh in on the matter, but both Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Vice President Joe Biden have taken the lead in condemning Maduro’s rule. Even the oft-taunted Elizabeth Warren agreed with President Trump on his stance against the Venezuelan dictator.
Sanders minced around the questions in a Tuesday interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos. Asked whether he recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country, the Vermont senator offered a simple “no.” Ramos then asked Sanders whether he considered Maduro a dictator, and whether he should step down. Sanders refused to answer.
Still, “I think clearly he has been very, very abusive,” Sanders said. “That is a decision of the Venezuelan people, so I think, Jorge, there’s got to be a free and fair election. But what must not happen is that the United States must not use military force and intervene again as it has done in the past in Latin America, as you recall, whether it was Chile or Brazil or the Dominican Republic or Guatemala.”
Sanders said, “The United States has got to work with the international community to make sure that there is a free and fair election in Venezuela.” This comment did not placate Florida Rep. Donna Shalala. “I do agree the international community needs to come together, and the U.S. needs to work with the international community,” she said. “But that’s been happening.”
In response, Sanders’ deputy chief of staff, Ari Rabin-Havt said, “[Bernie Sanders’] view represents the long and horrific history of American politicians imposing their will on the people of Latin America. Bernie stands with the Venezuelan people to demand free and fair elections and for self-determination for all people around the world.”
Meanwhile, Florida Democrats have been crystal clear in their stance. In a statement, the party said they “recognize Juan Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, denounce the legitimacy of the Maduro regime and his efforts to remain illegally in power.”
“Seems the Senator has already written Florida off his presidential campaign strategy,” concluded Cuba Study Group’s Ric Herrero.