Trump offers few clues to Venezuela end game in State of the Union

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President Donald Trump delivers his 2019 State of the Union Address. February 5, 2019. Photo: Doug Christian/TMN
President Donald Trump delivers his 2019 State of the Union Address. February 5, 2019. (Doug Christian/TMN)

Trump offered no details of how the U.S. would react should tensions worsen in an ongoing standoff against President Nicolás Maduro.

NEW YORK – President Trump made no reference to the ultimate goals of his political intervention in Venezuela during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, even as the decision to dispatch aid to the country against the wishes of President Nicolás Maduro edges the U.S. toward a potentially volatile standoff.

“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 told a joint session of Congress in Washington.

Trump did note his decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president last month, but he avoided reference to recent oil sanctions or the mobilization of humanitarian aid at the Colombia-Venezuela border, where the Venezuelan military is said to be mustering.

Instead, National Security Advisor John Bolton remains the foremost American official to detail U.S. objectives in Venezuela. Bolton said last month that the U.S. hopes to set in motion a “peaceful, democratic, and constitutional transfer of power” and that any violence directed at what Washington considers Venezuela’s rightful government would be “met with a significant response.”

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America Director for the International Crisis Group, faulted Trump’s avoidance of addressing the consequences of his administration’s actions:

“President Trump’s goal of rescuing the Venezuelan people from authoritarian rule and mass impoverishment struck a virtuous note. But so long as the plan hinges on heaping more sanctions on the Venezuelan economy and hoping for the best outcome, or even resorting to military intervention to break the stalemate, the medicine risks worsening the pain, not curing it.”

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