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With Maduro entrenched in Venezuela, Trump loses patience and interest in the issue, officials say



Last winter, the ouster of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro seemed a sure bet to President Trump, a quick foreign policy

Then came spring, when Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader Trump, had been recognized as Venezuela's legitimate president, called for the Venezuelan military to do so. rise up and switch sides. But while the White House had received opposition assurances that many in the upper echelons of the security forces and government had pledged to flip, virtually none responded to Guaidó's call

A frustrated Trump believed that John Bolton and his director for Latin American policy, Mauricio Claver-Carone, "got played" by both the opposition and key Maduro officials, two senior administration officials said. As the president "chewed out the staff" in a meeting shortly after the April 30 failure, in the words of a former Trump official involved in the Venezuelan policy, he thought he might need to get on the phone himself to get something done. 19659006] Summer arrives this week with Maduro still in place, and little indication that he is imminently on his way out, or that the Trump administration has a coherent strategy to remove him. The president, officials said, is losing both patience and interest in Venezuela.

The White House declined to comment on the matter on the record. But another senior administration official described the report of a chewing-out as "patently false."

"The United States has never said that its effort in Venezuela would be limited to one round," the official said. "The administration's maximum-pressure policy relies on consistency and discipline to achieve the ultimate goal."

All officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss administration policymaking

As Venezuela becomes more ungovernable, with sanctions having cut off much of his income, some argue, the fatigue afflicting many Maduro opponents has also begun affecting the regime. That would theoretically encourage the negotiations over the elections in which Maduro does not participate, although it may not ensure his immediate departure, as the United States has advocated

But Trump has clearly been frustrated about a foreign policy issue he always thought of. . . as low-hanging fruit "on which he" could win and tout it as a major foreign policy victory, "the former official said. "Five or six months later. . . it's not coming together. "

Since early last month, Trump has rarely spoken publicly about Venezuela or his" all options "promised to use military force if needed to achieve the US

In a closed-door meeting Wednesday, the campaign donors at his Doral golf club in key election state Florida – just miles from where he delivered a February speech to Venezuelan and Cuban expatriates warning that those who continued to support Maduro would

Trump's Twitter account, which once provided regular saber-rattling on Venezuela, has largely been silent on the subject

In one exception, Trump did not mention Venezuela, one person in attendance said. tweeted early this month that "Russia has informed us that they have removed most of their people from Venezuela." After Russia denied it, saying there was no such action or communication with the administration, it was never mentioned again

It was Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Trump had called in early May to tell him – leader to leader – that Moscow's support for Maduro had to stop. Both Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already put Russia on notice. But Trump, after the call, had said mildly that Putin assured him that Russia was "not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he would like to see something positive happen."

Early last week, responding to shouting questions as he prepared to board Marine One on the White House South Lawn, Trump blamed the ongoing Venezuelan crisis on his predecessor and threw in a dig at his 2020 election. "It's been brewing for many years," he said. "It really started, in the worst form, during the Biden-Obama administration."

Asked if he would consider giving special immigration status to Venezuelans fleeing their country, something else in the administration has carefully avoided committing to, "We're looking at that very strong."

Later in the week, he met for more than two hours with top officials from Major League Baseball, who asked that he reconsider his cancellation of a deal they made with Cuba to bring its baseball players to the United States. In addition to Russia, the administration blames Cuba for supporting Maduro, and during the meeting Trump tried to enlist baseball executives to deliver two messages to leaders in Havana. He is happy to make a deal on Cuban baseball players, Trump said, if they would tell Cuba to get out of Venezuela.

Trump also suggested he would be willing to meet directly with Cuban officials under the right conditions. "The president gave the MLB the same message he gave to everyone – the Cubans need to change their behavior, in Venezuela and internally," said one senior administration official.

While Trump seems to have withdrawn from the fray, Bolton tweets about Venezuela more than any other foreign policy issue. "The United States will continue to stand firmly in support of ending Maduro's repression," he wrote Tuesday.

In Miami, as Trump was heading to Florida, it was Vice President Pence who spoke to Venezuelan Americans to salute the embarkation of US Navy ship Comfort to Latin America, expecting to treat Venezuelan refugees

Pence deflected questions about US military intervention, saying the administration's objective was "to see democracy and rule of law restored in Venezuela so Venezuelans can go home to a free nation."

John Hudson contributed to this report.


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