Trump’s threat of Venezuela military action could bolster Maduro

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he arrives for a session of the National Constituent Assembly at Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro gestures as he arrives for a session of the National Constituent Assembly at Palacio Federal Legislativo in Caracas, Venezuela August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

August 14, 2017

By Hugh Bronstein

CARACAS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s talk of possible military action in Venezuela could be a political lifeline for the country’s unpopular leader, who has long used the threat of U.S. aggression to justify policies that have shredded the economy.

President Nicolas Maduro has continued the free-spending socialist “revolution” started by his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, almost 20 years ago. Key to the populist rhetoric used by both is a constant drumbeat of warnings that the U.S. “empire” is planning an invasion to steal Venezuela’s oil.

That threat was laughed off by the opposition and until Friday night, when Trump said a military option was not out of the question for dealing with the Venezuelan government’s crackdown on the opposition and deepening social crisis.

“He’s doing Maduro a favor by reinforcing the nationalist position that the Gringos want to come and attack Venezuela. This has always been part of Maduro’s rhetoric, and Chavez before him. And it has served them both well,” said lawyer Luis Alberto Rodriguez while sitting at a cafe, smoking a Cuban cigar, in one of Caracas’ wealthier neighborhoods.

“It’s not going to have any impact other than the government using it to further unify its people and attack the opposition,” the 44-year-old added.

Maduro loyalists, who regularly insult opposition leaders as Washington’s lackeys, wasted no time in pouncing.

“Mind your own business and solve your own problems, Mr. Trump!” thundered Maduro’s son, also named Nicolas, at the country’s new constituent assembly, which was elected last month to rewrite the constitution.

The opposition fears the assembly will remove any checks that remain on the president’s powers, and critics globally have condemned it as an affront to democracy.

“If Venezuela were attacked, the rifles would arrive in New York, Mr. Trump,” the younger Maduro said. “We would take the White House.”

‘NO GREATER GIFT’

Marches against Maduro were held in Caracas on Saturday, with few confrontations with state security forces and no deaths. More than 120 have been killed in unrest since April, as the economy collapses deeper into a recession compounded by triple-digit inflation as well as food and medicine shortages.

The opposition’s Democratic Unity coalition on Sunday issued a statement rejecting foreign threats to the country, without specifically identifying Trump or the United States.

“The Democratic Unity coalition rejects the use of force, or the threat of its use, by any country (against) Venezuela,” said the statement published on the group’s Twitter account.

The coalition added: “Venezuela has for years been militarily and politically intervened by Cuba,” echoing opposition criticism that Maduro has allowed foreign allies to colonize Venezuela even has he decries U.S. imperialism.

The opposition, which controls a congress that has been neutered by Maduro’s loyalist Supreme Court, boycotted last month’s election of the new legislative superbody.

Opposition leaders called instead for an early presidential election, which Maduro would likely lose as his popularity gets pummeled by the country’s economic woes.

“Maduro could not have asked for a greater gift from Trump,” said David Smilde, senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights think tank. “He provided substance for Maduro’s heretofore implausible conspiracy theories.”

Smilde said Trump’s threat of military force put the Venezuelan opposition “on its heels” after a group of Latin American governments joined last week in reprimanding Maduro for sponsoring the July 30 election of the constituent assembly.

“It has threatened to deflate the emerging regional consensus regarding Venezuela,” Smilde said. “Today the countries that on Tuesday signed on to a strong statement criticizing Maduro’s authoritarian direction are spending their time criticizing Trump’s statements.”

(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea and Deisy Buitrago; Editing by Mary Milliken)

  • CCTexas

    That younger Maduro is a real diaper welling child is he not? The good people of Venezuela will no doubt get rid of both Maduro the elder and Maduro the younger in good time. Columbia, ah Columbia. No love lost between the V and the Colombians. I just love the Colombians, hope they get a chance to take a whack or two at the V.

  • Snideley_whiplassche

    C’mon Reuters, fess up! Maduro is scared shyteless ever since Trump decided to put in his 2 cents worth, fearing the possibility of losing it all. There is more going on there than Reuters will admit.

  • hoistthatrag

    More proof Reuters sucks. People can’t find food or toilet paper there, and Reuters wants us to believe Trump’s non-threat of military action will benefit the dictator.

    • Tango Uniform

      And what will this benefit look like? Is it bigger than a bread box? Is it bread?

      • hoistthatrag

        Servitude. Obedience.

  • ward vista

    Whenever A foreign government threatens to assassinate A U.S. senator then one might expect to receive such A statement , however of course nobody on the mainstream media are reporting
    that one of the defense ministers of Venezuela threatened the the life of Marco Rubio.
    Article 4 section 4 of the U.s.Constitution should be read by all those who are so upset we have A president who says he will make good on any threat to any and all citizens of this country .
    We also can count that we now have A D.O.J that will investigate to see whoever is responsible for the rally in Virginia over the weekend, and if A certain Billionaire was responsible perhaps he might become A military target also.

  • All American

    Maduro = Dicktator⬇️
    Free Venezuela 🇻🇪

  • Donald J. Olson

    Actually, the Venezuelan people have every confidence that the U.S.A. will help them secure a democratic government, jump start oil productions to refinance the economy, and re-open the GM automobile plant.

  • Kelly Hardy

    we need to keep our noses in our own business….we have no need to go to Venezuela…Socialist Scumbags made their bed let them get a good dose of it…we have our own fight with socialism right here in America

  • Phil M. Kelley

    Nothing is going to “bolster” Maduro very much because he is starving the Venezuelan people. There is not much excuse for that in the most oil-rich nation of South America.

    • All American

      True that

  • Dens

    The rabid leftists at Reuters just can’t say enough positive things about their favorite Communist dictators such as Maduro and his ilk. This article, as is the usual leftist practice, makes ‘victims’ of a vicious, murdering dictator and his violent followers while making President Trump out to be the bad guy for daring to criticize and threaten the brutal, intolerant Communist criminals who are the root cause of the misery in Venezuela.

    • All American

      Down with Reuters aka American Press Corpse

  • Sage54

    I hope we don’t get involved

  • Jim Tillman

    Seems that the only leader in the world who has to be careful about what he says is President Trump..the rest of them can say what they want with impunity. Wonder why that is?

    • Phil M. Kelley

      Because Trump will be reviled by the left, as well as some RINOs, no matter what he says or does. Trump is the ultimate outsider and the swamp is fighting being drained.

  • turnipweed

    Someone in a position of great power has to be careful what they say. They can’t say much more than “We’re here for you if you need us”, or risk a backlash.

    • whoselineisitanyway

      You’re a Globalist.
      Most likely a SOROS PAID TROLL

      • turnipweed

        It’s better than being a total Leftist-Communist-Marxist like you.

        PS, Soros is on my poo list, right near the top with you and McConnell.

    • All American

      Standing with President Trump👍🏻🇺🇸

      • turnipweed

        Absolutely! Just warning people that the Left is looking for anything to criticize him for. Sometimes he needs to choose his words more carefully while not changing the message.