Trump Administration Reportedly Threatened Venezuelan Presidential Candidate With Sanctions

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Remember when Russia attempting to exert influence over our elections was bad? Well, it turns out we don’t think other countries should get that same courtesy.

According to a U.S. News & World Report story this weekend, a leading Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate was told by U.S. officials that the administration of President Donald Trump would “consider financial sanctions” against him for running in the country’s May presidential election. According to writer Mark Weisbrot, who has written extensively about U.S.-Venezuelan relations in the past, opposition polls indicate that the candidate, Henri Falcón, leads current president Nicolás Maduro by as many as seven points.

Considering the U.S. has been trying for decades to get rid of Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party and both Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, that they would threaten a candidate who has real potential to do that for them might be surprising. But the U.S. is supporting the official strategy of the Venezulan opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), which has been to boycott the election, as it did last year’s Constituent National Assembly elections.


Because of Falcón’s decision to run, he was expelled last week by the MUD. And instead of encouraging a peaceful transfer between Maduro and Falcón should the latter win the election, the U.S. appears to be amenable to a coup, the likes of which we’ve seen in recent years in places like Honduras. Last August, Trump refused to rule out a “military option” in Venezuela.

In February, Secretary of State (and former Exxon CEO) Rex Tillerson said in a speech at the University of Texas that the administration’s official policy was that while it did not favor regime change, the “history of Venezuela and South American countries” has shown that “the military is the agent of change when things are so bad and the leadership can no longer serve the people.” Tillerson apparently forgot about the death and destruction that came with U.S.-backed right-wing military dictatorships in places like Chile, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.


According to Weisbrot, “high-level sources” inside the Trump administration tell him that one non-member of the Trump administration is “determining” America’s policy on Venezuela: Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a frequent critic of Maduro. On February 9, Rubio tweeted:


Yeah, this should go swimmingly.