President Donald Trump’s visit to Lake Okeechobee was supposed to tout funding for Everglades projects.
But he decided to riff about closing the southern U.S. border and criticized Colombia — a key U.S. ally harboring at least 1.5 million Venezuelans who have fled Nicolás Maduro’s regime.
After saying Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico have “done nothing” to keep immigrants from entering the U.S., Trump called out Colombian President Iván Duque.
“I’ll tell you something, Colombia, you have your new president of Colombia,” Trump said. “Really good guy, I’ve met him — we had him at the White House. He said how he’s going to stop drugs. More drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president, so he has done nothing for us.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, a major supporter of Colombia’s efforts on Venezuela who recently visited the Colombia-Venezuela border, stood behind the president as he blasted Duque.
The comments from Trump came after he tweeted Friday morning about closing the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I will be CLOSING the border, or large sections of the border, next week,” Trump tweeted.
“We’ll keep it closed for a long time; I’m not playing games,” Trump said to reporters at Lake Okeechobee.
Colombia is the main staging area for humanitarian aid waiting to enter Venezuela. Duque was one of the first leaders to recognize Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president and the country is regarded as a key U.S. ally in the ongoing effort to drive Maduro out of power.
Duque, a conservative who took office in August 2018, visited the White House last month. Florida Sen. Rick Scott traveled to Duque’s inauguration, a sign that Republicans in Florida — the state has more Colombian residents than any other — want to build a relationship with the new president.
Rubio touted the United States’ relationship with Duque in a Miami Herald op-ed last month.
“Colombia’s fight is our fight. The United States has an obligation to support President Duque’s new counterdrug strategy,” Rubio wrote. “Nearly 1 million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia in recent years, overwhelming the latter’s basic services like healthcare, education and housing programs. The United States and international community must continue to support Colombia with humanitarian assistance to cope with this tragedy.”