Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to see democracy flourish in Venezuela, but says a US military intervention is not the way to achieve this.
In a recent interview with The New Yorker, Sanders said Nicolas Maduro, the country’s authoritarian, socialist leader, is heading a “failed regime.” But he said that military intervention is “off the table” for him when it comes to addressing the situation in Venezuela.
“The world community has got to be mindful of the humanitarian suffering and the hunger that’s going on in Venezuela right now,” the senator added. “But, at the end of the day, I think what you want in one of the largest countries in Latin America is free and fair elections, and we want to do everything we can to establish democracy there.”
The Vermont senator, whose critics have accused him of being too soft on socialist leaders in Latin America, did not dispute that Maduro is part of an “axis of corrupt authoritarianism.” Sanders also said “all of the recent evidence” points to the conclusion that Maduro was reelected last year under “fraudulent” circumstances.
“And, despite his ideology, what we need to see is democracy established in Venezuela,” Sanders added. “That does not mean deciding that some politician is the new President, who never won any election.”
Sanders was seemingly alluding to the US government recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim leader. The senator has refused to join the Trump administration on this, and has been criticized by Republicans and even some Democrats as a result. Many US allies have also recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.
Guaidó in late January declared himself interim leader amid growing chaos in Venezuela, which has continued into April. Earlier that month, Guaidó had been installed as president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the legislature of Venezuela that’s considered by the White House to be the only legitimate democratic institution left in the Latin America country.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has sought to tie Sanders, a self-declared democratic socialist, to the pandemonium in Venezuela. The day Sanders announced he’s running for president in 2020, the Trump campaign in a statement said, “Bernie Sanders has already won the debate in the Democrat primary, because every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism.”
“But the American people will reject an agenda of sky-high tax rates, government-run health care and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela,” the statement added. “Only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous and safe.”
During a CNN town hall in late February, Sanders stopped short of referring to Maduro as a “dictator” and, much like he told The New Yorker, said he was against the use of military force in Venezuela.
“I think we’ve got to do everything we can to create a democratic climate, but I do not believe in US military intervention,” Sanders said at the time.
The senator has often cited the US government’s disastrous history of interventionism in Latin America to bolster his case against future military escapades in the region, but this has not stopped Democrats from questioning his rhetoric toward Maduro.
“Dictatorship is dictatorship whether from the right or left,” Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in late February in response to Sanders’ CNN town hall comments. “Dictatorship oppresses their people. I’m really surprised that Sen. Sanders could not at least call him a dictator.”