Trump’s Twitter war, and why the odds are against Juan Guaidó on Tuesday – Washington Examiner

As interim President Juan Guaidó led his people onto Venezuelan streets on Tuesday, he called for the world to support his legitimate struggle. The U.S. answered that call — with some tweets.

In statements divorced from action, Trump administration officials on Tuesday showed their sympathy for an Obama administration-style foreign policy of words and absent action. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the U.S. “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated.” Vice President Mike Pence declared “We are with you!” National security adviser John Bolton was rightly more circumspect.

It’s clear that President Trump has exaggerated his commitment to Guaidó. Trump deserves credit for his 2017-2018 efforts to hamper Nicolás Maduro’s brutal regime, but this year, he has hesitated. In 2019, all we’ve seen are sanctions with little strategic effect. Guaidó has requested U.S. support to end Maduro’s oil theft, and has been rebuked. Guaidó has sought stronger U.S. action to corral the Venezuelan military away from Maduro, and has been rebuked. Guaidó has been given U.S. assurances and open warnings to Maduro that his safety must be preserved. But now those warnings are retreating.

Maduro knows it. And with the growing support of Russia, the sustained support of Cuba and China, the mad despot is turning the screws on Guaidó’s support base. The Venezuelan military, or at least the vast majority of its combat infantry arms, also sense Trump’s hesitation. That makes them far more predisposed to what we’re seeing today on the streets — violently cracking down on peaceful protesters demanding freedom. The corrupt generals and brigade commanders see U.S. weakness and sense they face a future of continued wealth, rather than prison or death.

Ultimately, unless the Trump administration abandons the foreign policy textbook of Ben Rhodes, I suspect it will not be until Venezuela suffers its cholera epidemic that true change arrives. But then it will be change on a heap of bodies.

Short of employing military force to overthrow Maduro, Trump must escalate this struggle. As a first step he should warn Maduro that any seizure or harm to Guaidó will result in U.S. military action.

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