Trump Delivers Speech In Miami, Continuing Support For Venezuelan Opposition Leader

Feb 18, 2019
Originally published on February 18, 2019 5:16 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

President Trump was in Miami today to talk about Venezuela and growing international pressure to oust that country's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. Trump got a warm welcome from the crowd, which included several hundred members of South Florida's Venezuelan expat community.

The president did not announce any new policies. He did express his continued support for Juan Guaido, who the U.S. and many other countries have recognized as Venezuela's legitimate leader. And Trump had a message for members of Venezuela's military who still support Maduro.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: If you choose this path, you will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything.

KELLY: NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Miami, where the president spoke. And, Greg, what else did the president have to say about Venezuela today?

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, you know, as you say, Mary Louise, it was really not any new policies here. It was really more like a campaign rally. He - a lot of red hats in there in the audience. People were very happy to see the president because - in fact, there was even some boos for the Obama administration when his name was brought up by some of the earlier speakers.

They feel like that - Obama administration didn't do enough on Venezuela. Certainly people are happy with what President Trump is doing. His advisers - John Bolton was here, also Marco Rubio, another adviser on Venezuela.

KELLY: The Florida senator, yeah.

ALLEN: Yes, exactly. And he's South Florida's own, you know, Cuban-American, but also a former rival of President Trump. He talked a lot. Marco Rubio talked a lot about aid shipments which are now being sent to Venezuela by USAID. They're held up at the border, the Colombian border there.

Marco Rubio was at the border yesterday. He today spoke about a plan to have individual Venezuelans deliver the aid by hand in something of a popular uprising. He said to watch for that in coming days and said that would be an important thing to watch.

KELLY: We mentioned the expat community, that some of them were in the audience. Do Venezuelans living in Florida tend to support these efforts to oust Maduro?

ALLEN: You know, now almost unanimously so, yes. I mean, so many Venezuelans have come here over the last two decades fleeing the Chavez regime and now the Maduro regime. People had property confiscated. There's a lot of anti-Maduro sentiment in Miami. There's been big demonstrations here recently that have coincided with the protests going on in Venezuela.

So this is a population that really feels strongly about this issue. And, of course, there's connections with the Cuban-American population here, which many people there also fled a Socialist, Communist regime in Cuba.

KELLY: We can hear some chatter behind you. I gather you're still at the arena where the president was speaking earlier. And I want to ask to what extent U.S. politics might have been on his mind as he was speaking. Venezuelan-Americans, and even more so Cuban-Americans are a big and very important voting bloc there in South Florida.

ALLEN: Right. And I think we also got a sense that he was trying out kind of a campaign - a theme that might come up in his re-election campaign, the idea that socialism is on the march here, and we need to stop it down there. We also need to stop it here. He connected what's happening in Venezuela with the leftward turn of the Democratic Party in this country.

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TRUMP: To those who would try to impose socialism on the United States, we again deliver a very simple message. America will never be a socialist country.

ALLEN: You know, Florida's former governor and now senator, Rick Scott, made it even clearer, saying - talking about what's going on in Venezuela and saying that's what Democrats want to bring to our country.

KELLY: All right. That's NPR's Greg Allen reporting from Miami. Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.