North Korea. Afghanistan. Venezuela, too, is on the list of troublesome countries President Trump seems poised to tackle head on. And many think time is of the essence.
On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence appeared in Doral, where thousands of Venezuelans live in exile, to listen to their stories of why they left their homeland and assure them that the Trump administration will not stand by as Nicolás Maduro consolidates his Cuba-style dictatorship.
That would threaten Americans, President Trump has said.
Pence stayed away from specifics, which likely means some action should be expected soon, if one is to believe Trump’s mantra that he will not signal his next move, giving up the power of surprise. The Miami Herald has reported it has learned that some action may be taken this week.
But the vice president definitely went to Doral with a message of hope.
WATCH VIDEO: VICE PRESIDENT PENCE VISITS DORAL
“Our resolve is unwavering; our conviction is clear,” Pence told the crowd at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. “You may be assured: Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”
That will likely be stiffer economic sanctions, although the specter of military action hovers in the air, either as an empty threat or a real possibility, which would be dangerous overreach. Still, dislodging Maduro will be no easy task.
But Pence made no mention of military action. Last week, President Trump did get pushback from other Latin countries in the region at the mention of such a solution. So far, Trump has sanctioned several Maduro cronies, cutting off access to their money in U.S. accounts, money likely pipelined to Maduro.
For those living in South Florida, the “Venezuela problem” is beginning to resemble the “Cuba problem.” Again you have a leftist strongman/dictator who refuses to give up power as thousands and thousands of people flee into exile. Under U.S. sanction, the economy grows worse while the people suffer. and the dictator casts the United States as the bogey man, at fault for all that nation’s problems. That scenario stayed true in Cuba for more than 50 years — and some 90 miles away.
Trump is right to put his foot down with Maduro, but he must tread gently and somehow win the support of Venezuela’s neighbors. It could be the next test in diplomacy for our president.
And Maduro has made hay with Trump’s comments by holding an “anti-imperialist” protests.
Ramón Muchacho, the opposition mayor of the Caracas suburb of Chacao, who fled to Miami under the threat of arrest by Maduro’s government, told the Editorial Board on the eve of Pence’s visit that a military solution might be in order for Venezuela.
“We can’t return to democracy alone; we need help,” he said.
More than 120 Venezuelans have been killed in street demonstrations since April, as the economy collapses deeper into a recession and food and medicine shortages continue.
The sanctions could take the form of banning any trade in U.S. dollars of Venezuelan debt — a local recommendation to further squeeze Maduro financially.
Guiding Trump through the Venezuela problem is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is well-versed in the Cuba conundrum. That’s a smart move by Trump to use Rubio’s expertise. The administration must give economic sanctions time to work. The “or else” should not be another military conflict for this country.