Trump vowed in his State of the Union address in February that Nicolas Maduro's 'grip on tyranny' would be 'smashed and broken.'
Donald Trump undermined his own policy toward Venezuela over the weekend, just months after pledging to restore the South American nation's democracy.
Trump told Axios in an interview published on Sunday that he lacks confidence in Juan Guaidó, the man he had previously called the "true and legitimate President of Venezuela," and that he would be willing to meet with the country's president, Nicolás Maduro, whom he has called an "illegitimate ruler" and "a tyrant."
"I would maybe think about that. ... Maduro would like to meet. And I'm never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings," Trump said, adding, "I always say, you lose very little with meetings."
Regarding his decision in January 2019 to recognize Guaidó, president of the National Assembly of Venezuela, as the rightful leader of the country, Trump told Axios, "Guaidó was elected. I think that I wasn't necessarily in favor, but I said — some people that liked it, some people didn't. I was OK with it. I don't think it was — you know, I don't think it was very meaningful one way or the other."
But during his State of the Union address this past February, Trump not only praised Guaidó but also hosted him as a special guest.
"The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people. But Maduro's grip on tyranny will be smashed and broken," Trump told Congress.
"Here this evening is a very brave man who carries with him the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of all Venezuelans. Joining us in the Gallery is the true and legitimate President of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó."
He urged Guaidó to bring the message that "all Americans are united with the Venezuelan people in their righteous struggle for freedom" back to his country.
A statement posted in May 2019 that is still up on the White House website says that the United States "stands with Interim President Juan Guaido, the democratically elected National Assembly, and all Venezuelans who seek to restore democracy and the rule of law" and that Venezuela's people are "standing up against the illegitimate, brutal rule of Nicolas Maduro, making it clear that he must relinquish power and leave the country."
Trump tweeted at that time that the United States would stand with "the GREAT PEOPLE of Venezuela for however long it takes" to end Maduro's "terrible abuses."
In August 2019, his administration put out another statement, promising that the United States would "use every appropriate tool to end Maduro's hold on Venezuela, support the Venezuelan people's access to humanitarian assistance, and ensure a democratic transition in Venezuela."
Despite Trump's promises, Maduro has effectively remained in control, maintaining a hold on the armed forces, the police, and the state-run oil company.
Trump's willingness to meet with dictators has not yielded many results. In 2018, he famously held a summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un and promised their friendship would bring a nuclear deal.
This month, North Korea's foreign minister said the process had been a total failure. "Even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare," Ri Son Gwon said in a statement, vowing that North Korea would never again "provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.