February 14, 2019 / 2:39 AM / 6 months ago

Trump to give speech on Venezuela in Miami on Monday

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump will give a speech on Venezuela in Miami on Monday and voice support for Juan Guaido, whom the United States considers the South American country’s legitimate president, a White House official said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a rally at El Paso County Coliseum in El Paso, Texas, U.S., February 11, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Trump, who plans to spend this weekend at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, is to make remarks on Venezuela and “the dangers of socialism” at Florida International University in Miami, the official said.

Trump and other high-ranking U.S. officials have been trying to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hand over power to Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

“The Venezuelan government and its people are living in a pivotal moment of their history and we support their stand for liberty and independence,” Trump said last week in his State of the Union address.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, but Maduro’s socialist government retains the backing of Russia and China, as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Leading up to Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, the administration has made a point of highlighting its hard line on Venezuela in South Florida, home to the largest community of Venezuelan exiles in the United States. Florida is a swing state that is often important to the outcome of U.S. national elections.

Vice President Mike Pence took the stage in the Miami suburb of Doral earlier this month, pledging to ramp up pressure to help the opposition trying to oust Maduro. In October, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in a speech in Miami decried what he called “the troika of tyranny” - Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

In political speeches, including his State of the Union address, Trump, a Republican, has sought to draw connections between what is happening in socialist-run Venezuela with a new wave of left-leaning Democrats who helped their party take control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November elections.

Trump met with Colombia President Ivan Duque on Thursday and discussed the situation in Venezuela, where the economy is in shambles and people are suffering from shortage of food and medicines.

The U.S. government has moved supplies of food aid and medical supplies to Colombia’s border with Venezuela, another front of pressure on Maduro. “People are being treated very badly, and it’s a very sad thing to witness, especially since we’re so close,” Trump said, noting the crisis was at America’s “front door.”

Reporting by Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler

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