National Security Advisor John Bolton said Sunday he feels “honored” that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro recently named him as among a list of Trump administration officials that Mr. Maduro “fears.”
“I’m honored to be named by Nicolas Maduro. I add him to the list of other people who’ve criticized me over the years,” Mr. Bolton told ABC’s “This Week” in response to comments Mr. Maduro made about him in a late-February interview with the network.
In the interview, Mr. Maduro said President Trump’s advisory team on Venezuela includes “bad officials” pushing aggressively for the Venezuelan president to be ousted and replaced by opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Mr. Trump has been joined in recent weeks by the Organization of American States, as well as several individual South American, European and other leaders in supporting Mr. Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president and declaring Mr. Maduro’s presidency illegitimate.
A handful of leaders around the world, including those in Russia, China, Turkey and Iran, have backed Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Bolton said Sunday he doesn’t personally wish Mr. Maduro any “ill will.”
“I tweeted some weeks ago, I hope his future consists of living on a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela,” the national security advisor said.
He added that “it’s not just Maduro … It’s the entire regime. It’s a group of kleptocrats who have plundered Venezuela of its oil wealth, have impoverished the people.”
“You can see that now with the collapse of their nationwide electrical grid,” Mr. Bolton said.
His comments came after reports of expanding electricity and communications outages in Venezuela, where an ongoing political and humanitarian crisis saw the Guaido-aligned opposition and Maduro-loyalists hold rival demonstrations over the weekend.
The rallies and outages are playing out against a backdrop in which both sides appear to be preparing for what a growing number of experts predict will be a protracted power struggle likely to deepen the hardship of national economic paralysis already gripping Venezuela. The Associated Press noted over the weekend that both sides have blamed each other for the collapse of the power grid.
In his interview late last month with ABC, Mr. Maduro listed several top Trump administration advisers as being “bad,” including Mr. Bolton, newly appointed U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was director of the CIA during Mr. Trump’s first year in office.
“John Bolton [is] an extremist and expert of the Cold War,” Mr. Maduro said. “Elliott Abrams [is] a liar that trafficked arms and drugs in Central America and the world and brought war to the United States.”
“I fear Mike Pompeo, a CIA agent who has an antiquated scheme of old intelligence from the Cold War,” he added. “I fear Mike Pence, who is a man who does not know world politics, unaware of Latin American politics.”
Mr. Bolton said Sunday that he still believes “momentum is Guiado’s side” to overtake Mr. Maduro in the political crisis, claiming key military commanders once loyal to Mr. Maduro already have “shifted” their allegiance.
“They have not sought to arrest Guaido,” Mr. Bolton said. “And I think one reason for that is that Maduro fears if he gave that order, it would not be obeyed. The fact is, and the media don’t know it because people don’t talk about this, there are countless conversations going on between members of the National Assembly and members of the military in Venezuela; talking about what might come, how they might move to support the opposition.”
“They’re not going to broadcast that,” he said.
“I’m not certain of anything. But I do think momentum is on the side of Guaido,” the national security advisor added, claiming that the opposition leader is closer to garnering support from “enlisted personnel in the military and the junior officers [and] the top officer corps” than is being reported by news organizations.
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