(CNSNews.com) – The United States would like to see Venezuela’s leftist dictator leave the country to help facilitate the transition to democracy there, U.S. special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Thursday, noting that Nicolás Maduro has “friends in places like Cuba and Russia.”
Briefing reporters at the State Department, Abrams also disclosed that several other countries have informed the U.S. quietly that they would be willing to take regime members, although he declined to name them.
National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted recently, “I wish Nicolas Maduro and his top advisors a long, quiet retirement, living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela.”
“They should take advantage of President Guaido’s amnesty and move on. The sooner the better,” he added, referring to National Assembly leader Juan Guaido who the U.S. and dozens of other countries have now recognized as interim president, in line with Venezuela’s constitution.
Asked Thursday what the U.S. has in mind for Maduro, Abrams replied, “The endgame for him should be to leave power, and the sooner the better. Because his own situation is only going to decline the longer he clings to power and the more misery there is in Venezuela.”
As to whether or not he should remain in the country, Abrams said, “I think it is better for the transition to democracy in Venezuela that he be outside the country. And there are a number of countries that I think would be willing to accept him.”
Asked to identify them, he noted, “he’s got friends in places like Cuba and Russia, and there are some other countries actually that have come to us privately and said they’d be willing to take members of the current illegitimate regime if it would help the transition.”
Abrams took issue with accusations by Maduro allies like China that the U.S. is interfering in Venezuela’s domestic affairs.
“If you look around at the now nearly 50 democracies that are supporting interim-president Guaido and the National Assembly, it’s hard really to say that all of those countries are engaged in some kind of joint effort to interfere,” he argued.
(Apart from the U.S., the almost 50 countries that have formally recognized Guaido as interim president include 29 countries in Europe, 14 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a handful of others including Australia, Canada and Israel.)
Abrams said there has been outside interference in Venezuela’s internal politics for a long time, but that it had come primarily from Cuba, “which has a very large presence in Venezuela.”
The communist regime in Havana has been a longstanding close ally of the administration ruling Venezuela since the late President Hugo Chavez took the helm in 1999 and introduced his “21st century socialism” project.
Chavez held power for 14 years until he died of cancer in 2013, after handpicking as his successor Maduro, a former bus driver and Cuban-trained activist who served as Chavez’ foreign minister from 2006-2013.
Under Chavez and Maduro, Caracas drew closer not just to Cuba and fellow leftist regimes in the region like Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia, but also to Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, Iran, Turkey and Russia.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo drew attention to some of Maduro’s alliances.
“The Cubans have been controlling the security apparatus, protecting Maduro, and destroying the way of life for the Venezuelan people for an awfully long time,” he said in an interview with Fox Business’ Trish Regan.
He noted that both the Cubans and Russians were in Venezuela today, and voiced the hope that, post-transition, “the Venezuelan people will want to be sovereign and independent, not rely on Cubans and Russians for their security or their wellbeing.”
In response to a question, Pompeo alluded to longstanding concerns about the involvement of Iran and its Lebanese terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Latin America.
“People don’t recognize that Hezbollah has active cells,” he said. “The Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America.”