Bolton: US has 'special responsibility' to back Venezuelan opposition leader

Bolton: US has 'special responsibility' to back Venezuelan opposition leader
© Getty Images

National security adviser John BoltonJohn Robert BoltonSchumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord Why President Trump must keep speaking out on Hong Kong Trump meets with national security team on Afghanistan peace plan MORE said Thursday that the U.S. has a "special responsibility" to support the opposition to Nicolás Maduro's government in Venezuela, compared to other nations with authoritarian leaders.

Bolton spoke with reporters at the White House about the Trump administration's recognizing Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the nation's legitimate president on Wednesday. Bolton was asked why Trump has ratcheted up actions toward Maduro, but not done the same with strongmen in China, Turkey, the Philippines and Russia.

"The fact is Venezuela is in our hemisphere," Bolton said. "I think we have a special responsibility here, and I think the president feels very strongly about it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Bolton suggested the reporter's question was "full of fallacies," but cited the rain in Washington as a reason he would not elaborate on what those were.

Trump has drawn criticism for his actions and rhetoric toward leaders in Turkey, Russia, China, North Korea and the Philippines, who have all been accused of human rights abuses and strengthening their grips on power through extra-legal means.

He has at various times advocated for a closer relationship with Russia, referred to Chinese President Xi Jingping as a friend, called North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnPompeo expresses concern over North Korea missile tests State Dept. extends travel ban to North Korea Can we do business with Kim Jong Un? Leadership analysis might give clues MORE a "talented man" who "loves his country," and touted his "great relationship" with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.

The administration has simultaneously sanctioned Russia, imposed tariffs on Turkey and entered into negotiations with North Korea to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

The Trump administration has imposed numerous sanctions on Venezuelan businesses and those close to Maduro in recent months as the country's humanitarian and economic crises worsen. The U.S. and several other nations declared Maduro's recent re-election and subsequent inauguration illegitimate.

Trump on Wednesday issued an official statement recognizing Guaidó, the head of Venezuela's National Assembly, as the country's interim president amid nationwide protests against Maduro's government.

In response, Maduro broke off relations with the U.S. and gave American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

Bolton said Guaidó's team in Venezuela has invited U.S. personnel to stay there "consistent with their safety."

Trump's declaration that "all options are on the table" for further action in Venezuela speaks for itself, Bolton said, adding that the U.S. is focusing in the interim on disconnecting Maduro's regime from its revenue sources.

"We’re speaking with governments in this hemisphere which have overwhelmingly recognize the new constitutional government," he said. "We’re talking to our colleagues in Europe and elsewhere to demonstrate widespread political support for the interim presidency, and we’re moving to do everything we can to strengthen this new legitimate representative government."