WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is delivering a stern warning to Venezuela’s military leaders in a speech about the leadership and humanitarian crisis gripping the oil-rich country.
In unusually blunt language, Trump is expected to put Venezuela’s military leaders on notice Monday they and their families will lose everything if they don’t “work toward democracy.”
Trump also will say the U.S. knows where the Latin American country’s military leaders and their families have money hidden throughout the world, a threat intended to pressure the military to abandon embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Trump’s remarks in Miami come just weeks after his administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president and will be directed at Florida’s Venezuelan community as he tries to appeal to Latino votes heading into the 2020 election.
Florida is home to 166,531 residents who identified themselves as Venezuelan, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s roughly half the Venezuelan community in the United States.
Speaking at Florida International University, Trump is expected to reiterate strong support for Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, and will urge Venezuela’s nation’s military and security forces to allow humanitarian aid into the country, the White House said.
Trump will also signal that Venezuela’s current path toward democracy is irreversible and that the peaceful transition of power will help promote democracy in Nicaragua and Cuba.
Guaido has declared himself Venezuela’s interim president following last year’s contested presidential election. In late January, the Trump administration recognized him as president and urged Maduro to step down.
To apply pressure, the administration has slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, effectively barring the country from exporting its crude oil to the U.S. in an effort to starve Maduro’s regime from that vital stream of revenue.
Trump also has said “all options” are on the table in trying to oust Maduro from power, including a plan to deploy a limited number of U.S. troops to Colombia’s border with Venezuela. National security adviser John Bolton caused a stir last month when he appeared in the White House briefing room clutching a notepad that had “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on it.
Maduro has accused the U.S. of attempting to stage a coup against his government. Maduro-controlled security forces have blocked shipments of food and medical supplies from reaching Venezuelans in need.
Venezuela is in the midst of an economic and humanitarian crisis, with hyperinflation and food shortages causing widespread hunger and desperation. More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled their homeland.
Contributing: John Fritze
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