President Trump was in Miami Monday to declare to Venezuelan expats that he’s committed to the campaign to squeeze authoritarian Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro out of power. In his speech at Florida International University, Trump repeated his threat that U.S. military intervention is still possible.
“We seek a peaceful transition of power – but all options are open,” Trump said to loud applause.
The message resonated with Venezuelans like Arcenio Fontalva, who owns a Venezuelan restaurant in Doral called La Uchireña. Fontalva said it’s time take to take more drastic action to oust Maduro – who critics say has trashed Venezuela’s democracy and destroyed its economy, leaving millions suffering there.
“I think it’s necessary that President Trump help the Venezuelan people overthrow Maduro’s government – the dictadura," or dictatorship, said Fontalva. "The Venezuelan people can’t alone. We need the United States. I think military action is necessary.”
A showdown is expected this weekend when the U.S. leads an effort to move massive shipments of humanitarian aid from Columbia into Venezuela. In recent weeks, the socialist Maduro has blocked the shipments by placing a tanker truck and shipping containers across the main border bridge.
The upcoming move is meant to further undermine Maduro who is no longer recognized by about 50 countries as Venezuela's president.
Trump also used the occasion to blast socialism and issued some of his strongest calls yet for Venezuela's military—the only real force keeping Maduro in power—to break with the regime.
"Let your people go. Set your country free," he said, adding that if military officials remain loyal to Maduro, "you will find no safe harbour, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything."
Kitty Soucre was among the hundreds of Venezuelan expats in the FIU crowd, and she said she's confident the Venezuela crisis will soon end.
"At least now we can see the light in the tunnel," Soucre said. "Everybody has hope now. Everybody feels better than before. Somebody [is helping] my country."
But other expats, like Luis Martin, said they oppose U.S. military intervention. Martin said he fears such action could result in more instability.
"If we can go through a peaceful situation, if we can give them food and all that in a peaceful way it will be better," Martin said.