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Trump Visits Southcom To Tout Anti-Drug Push; Claims Venezuela, Cuba Policy 'Under Control'

Pedro Portal
Miami Herald
President Trump at Southcom in Doral on Friday listening to an interagency briefing on the recent drug-interdiction push in the Caribbean

President Trump came to Southcom in Doral today to tout his administration’s new anti-narcotics push in the Caribbean. But the visit was as much about Venezuela as it was about drugs.

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In a season of political setbacks for President Trump, his interagency briefing at Southcom gave him a chance to claim a policy success. Since April, U.S. military and law enforcement have made a serious new drug-interdiction push in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific.

“Southcom’s surge operation, conducted with key regional partners, has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the interdiction of 120 metric tons – I can only tell you that’s a lot – of narcotics worth billions and billions of dollars," Trump said, seated alongside Southcom commander Admiral Craig Faller as well as several cabinet members including Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

But the political undercurrent of the Southcom event was Venezuela – and by extension, Cuba. Since last year, Trump has pledged to South Florida’s large Venezuelan and Cuban communities that he’s spearheading the ouster of their native countries’ authoritarian regimes.

Trump is hoping Latino voters here – especially Cubans – will help him win Florida again in November. The anti-narcotics push is meant largely to cut off illicit cash to communist Cuba’s ally Venezuela – whose socialist president, Nicolás Maduro (whom the U.S. does not recognize as the country's legitimate head of state) and top government and military leaders have been indicted in the U.S. for drug trafficking.

“We’re going to be fighting for Venezuela, we’re going to be fighting from, for our friends from Cuba," Trump said. "They know that we’ve been doing that and so many other places, but Cuba, Venezuela, we have it very well under control.”

But many Venezuelans here are questioning whether Trump’s regime change strategy is working – especially after he said recently he'd now be willing to talk with Maduro. (He later clarified the remark to mean he would talk with Maduro only to discuss Maduro's exit from power.) Trump met with expat leaders at a Doral church after his visit to Southcom.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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