Sen. Bernie Sanders gave an interview to Jorge Ramos today about his campaign for president and his outlook on various issues. At the end of the interview, Ramos asked Sanders to comment on the situation in Venezuela. Sanders’ answers did not sit well with some Florida Democrats.
Asked directly if Juan Guaido was the “legitimate president of Venezuela,” Sanders dodged. “No, I think what has to happen right now—I think there are serious questions about the recent election, there are many people who feel it was a fraudulent election,” Sanders said. He added, “I think the United States has got to work with the international community to make sure there is a free and fair election in Venezuela.”
The next question seems to be the one that really got Sanders in trouble. Kudos to Jorge Ramos for asking it.
“Is Nicolas Maduro a dictator, Senator, for you? And should he go?” Ramos asked.
“I think clearly he has been very, very abusive. That is a decision of the Venezuelan people,” Sanders said. He continued, “I think, Jorge, there has got to be a free and fair election, but what must not happen is that the United States must not use military force and intervene again as it has done in the past in Latin America…The future of Venezuela must be left to the Venezuelan people.”
Um, that’s great Bernie, but how are the 80% of people that want President Maduro gone supposed to get that free and fair election when the ruling socialist control everything and claim the last election was fair? How many people do Maduro’s death squads need to kill before we’re allowed to say Maduro is a dictator?
Anyway, the fact that Sanders refused to state the obvious did not please some Florida Democrats. From Politico:
Democrats, already alarmed that Trump’s inroads with Venezuelans could help him peel off an otherwise-reliable Democratic voting bloc in a toss-up state, were quick to denounce Sanders’ comments.
“He is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. He has demonstrated again that he does not understand this situation,” Rep. Donna Shalala, a Miami Democrat who represents Venezuelan exiles and, told POLITICO. “I absolutely disagree with his imprecision in not saying Maduro must go.” Shalala has filed legislation aimed at helping Venezuelan immigrants…
Helena Poleo, a Democrat who’s a former journalist from Venezuela and is a Spanish-language commentator, called Sanders comments “disgusting. The Florida Democratic Party needs to denounce this now.”…
State Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, said she was “dumbfounded” and believed Sanders wasn’t properly briefed.
“He’s obviously clueless,” Taddeo said.
“Seems the Senator has already written Florida off his presidential campaign strategy,” deadpanned Ric Herrero with the Cuba Study Group, which advocates for more engagement with Havana, an incidental ally of Caracas.
The Florida Democratic Party released a statement saying, “Florida Democrats have been unequivocal: We recognize Juan Guaidó as the President of Venezuela, denounce the legitimacy of the Maduro regime and his efforts to remain illegally in power.” So it sounds as if Sanders has really stepped in it with the Venezuelans in Florida who have experienced socialism. It’s really not much of a shock given some of his past support for socialist regimes:
Here’s the Jorge Ramos interview of Sanders queued up to the questions about Venezuela.