It would appear that the nation’s most famous democratic socialist is already shooting himself in the foot, making it hard for him to reach his 2020 presidential goal.
According to Politico, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is refusing to label Venezuela’s ousted President Nicholas Maduro as a dictator. On top of that, Sanders will give no acknowledgment to the nation’s interim president Juan Guaidó.
During a Tuesday interview with Univision, the Vermont socialist refused to acknowledge Guaidó as the legitimate leader of the country. When asked if he was, Sanders simply answered “no.”
“There are serious questions about the recent election. There are many people who feel it was a fraudulent election,” Sanders added.
Sanders was also asked if Maduro should step down, to which Sanders agreed that he’d been abusive, but that they need to hold an election.
“I think clearly he has been very, very abusive,” Sanders replied. “That is a decision of the Venezuelan people, so I think, Jorge, there’s 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, as you recall, whether it was Chile or Brazil or the Dominican Republic or Guatemala.”
Sanders added that “the United States has got to work with the international community to make sure that there is a free and fair election in Venezuela.”
Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Miami, however, didn’t understand Sanders viewpoint seeing as how that’s exactly how Guaidó came to power.
“I do agree the international comm needs to come together and the U.S. needs to work with the international community,” she said. “But that’s been happening.”
Like Shalala, members of the Democratic party, including many of the big names, are not at all impressed according to Politico, and have already written off Sanders as a 2020 candidate:
“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.
The emerging issue hasn’t yet spilled into the broader Democratic primary for president. Most candidates haven’t weighed in, some by choice.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and former Vice President Joe Biden, however, have clearly stated they consider Maduro a dictator and Guaidó the legitimate leader of Venezuela. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Pod Save Americathat she believed Maduro was a dictator and suggested she supported the “diplomatic part” of Trump’s backing of Guaidó, though she faulted him for too much “saber rattling.”
According to Florida Democrats, where a large part of the United States’ Venezuelan population resides, Sanders has already lost the state notes Politico:
“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,” the party said in a statement. Its comments echoed those of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who represents one of the largest Venezuelan populations in the United States.
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.
As Politico points out, Sanders has had a long history of sympathy toward dictatorial governments, once referring to Daniel Ortega as “an impressive guy” and Fidel Castro as a man who wasn’t “perfect” but “totally transformed” Cuba.