A new generation of young Democrats in Congress is opposing the Trump administration’s decision to recognize national assembly leader Juan Guaidó as the new president of Venezuela.
Three members of Congress, California Rep. Ro Khanna, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, have released statements condemning the U.S. action in Venezuela, which so far amounts to the recognitio of Guaidó, $20 million in humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan opposition and the threat of further action if Nicolas Maduro, whom the administration sees as an illegitimate president, resorts to violence.
“A U.S. backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face,” Omar tweeted. “Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.”
The position of Gabbard, Khanna and Omar is not shared by a majority of Democrats in Congress, including congressional leaders. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who traveled to Venezuela in 2017 and met with Maduro, said Maduro followed through with a “sham election” to pack a constituent assembly with his supporters, making this week’s action necessary.
“I told then-President Maduro that if he went ahead with a sham election under absurdly rigged conditions he would find his regime even further isolated and in question,” Durbin said in a statement. “Tragically that is exactly what has happened and why President Trump, Secretary General of the Organization of American States Almagro, and other nations in the region have appropriately recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as the constitutionally appropriate leader of Venezuela.”
Khanna was the first member of Congress to oppose Durbin’s position, which is shared by most Republicans and South Florida lawmakers from both parties.
“With respect Senator Durbin, the U.S. should not anoint the leader of the opposition in Venezuela during an internal, polarized conflict,” Khanna tweeted. “Let us support Uruguay, Mexico, & the Vatican’s efforts for a negotiated settlement & end sanctions that are making the hyperinflation worse.”
The U.S. is not alone in its decision to recognize Guaidó. The United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and Colombia, and most other Latin American nations have also recognized the opposition leader. China, Russia, Turkey, Cuba and Bolivia are opposed to the decision, while Mexico, Uruguay and the European Union have called for more dialogue.
Gabbard, a noted opponent of U.S. involvement in foreign countries who is running for president in 2020, also opposed the decision.“The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela,’ Gabbard tweeted. “Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”
The position of the liberal Democrats against any U.S. action in Venezuela is in contrast with the reaction of liberals to the 2017 constituent assembly vote, where Democrats who previously had relationships with Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, opposed Maduro’s bid to consolidate power.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is mulling a 2020 presidential bid of his own, condemned recent events in Venezuela but also said the U.S. should “not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups.” His comments condemning Venezuela’s economic situation drew criticism from some of his supporters.
“We must learn the lessons of the past and not be in the business of regime change or supporting coups — as we have in Chile, Guatemala, Brazil & the DR, [Domincan Republic]” Sanders said in a statement. “The US has a long history of inappropriately intervening in Latin American nations; we must not go down that road again.”
South Florida Democrats, including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, whose districts have significant numbers of Venezuelans, are supportive of the administration’s steps and have introduced bills that would hinder Maduro’s ability to obtain arms and sell oil. Mucarsel-Powell also spoke at a pro-Venezuela opposition rally on Wednesday in Washington, and Wasserman Schultz is hosting an event with Venezuelan community leaders in her district on Friday.
The Democratic Socialists of America, which count U.S. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as members, also called the decision to recognize Guaidó a “U.S.-backed coup.”
Former U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo pointed out to Omar that Guaidó’s political party, Popular Will, is described as center-left or center. Guaido’s party includes the first transgender congresswoman elected in Latin America, and party leader Leopoldo Lopez remains under house arrest by Maduro’s regime.
“You’d think a progressive would be a little more supportive. But no, the sick obsession w/ Donald Trump is blinding,” Curbelo tweeted.