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Trump Broadens Efforts To Pressure Venezuela's President To Resign

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Trump administration is broadening its efforts to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down. During a rally in Miami yesterday, President Trump spoke directly to Venezuelan military members and leadership, urging them to support the opposition leader Juan Guaido. And the president warned of consequences if they continued to support Maduro.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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.

(APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Trump also cautioned the Venezuelan military not to interfere with U.S. efforts to get humanitarian aid into the country. Patrick Duddy served as U.S. ambassador to Venezuela under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and he joins us now. Ambassador, thanks for being here.

PATRICK DUDDY: It's a pleasure to be with you.

MARTIN: The president took a very strong tone, as we heard there, particularly in addressing the Venezuelan military directly. What struck you most about his remarks?

DUDDY: Well, two things. First, the president clearly wants to send a message that the U.S. is firmly behind Juan Guaido, the interim president. And I think the entire administration is concerned that the military understand that their interests are very much at risk if they continue to support Nicolas Maduro. And then finally, a third point is that the administration hopes that by emphasizing their support for the interim president that they are able to affect a peaceful transfer of power, eventually.

MARTIN: So what changes the dynamic here? I mean, if the Venezuelan military is the key, their allegiance, though - despite U.S. sanctions on Venezuela - their allegiance remains with Maduro. So what changes?

DUDDY: I think there are really a couple of things. Internationally, it's important to understand that most of the Western democracies are of the same view as the United States. And increasingly organizations, like the OAS, all believe and have been really quite adamant in insisting that the Guaido presidency is the legitimate one. That's different from, say, the last time there were massive demonstrations in 2017. And then the other point is the emphasis that the administration has put on amnesty for the military. They want the military to understand that if they switch their allegiance, they can go on with their lives and participate in the rebuilding of Venezuela. But if they don't, they can be sanctioned in much the same way that some of the more senior people in the Maduro regime have been sanctioned.

MARTIN: I know most people of your ilk are loathe to predictions in this part of the world, but I'm going to ask you, anyway, because you've studied it for so long and have served there. How do you think this ends?

DUDDY: Well, I think in due course, the Maduro regime is going to be forced to resign. We know that there are examples - Cuba, being one - of countries which defy the entire region, as well as the United States. But I don't think that will be the case this time. The question is how long do they last, and can the Maduro regime be forced out peacefully?

MARTIN: Patrick Duddy, former U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. Thanks so much for your time, Ambassador. We appreciate it.

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


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