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Venezuela Gets Attention in Trump Tweet

The presidential tweet and photo op in support of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López. / Trump Twitter feed

Venezuela got some attention this week from President Donald Trump, who earlier publicly supported Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo López in a tweet

Trump may have been encouraged by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), who was photographed with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and López’s wife Lilian Tintori in the White House, perhaps also signaling that all is forgiven between Rubio – whom Trump mocked as “Lil Marco” throughout the presidential campaign – and the President.

Rubio and his wife later were scheduled to have dinner with Trump in the White House.

“Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of (just met w/ ) out of prison immediately,” Trump tweeted.

Foreign Policy magazine asked, “Could it be that the Venezuelan president is one strongman Trump doesn’t like?”

Venezuela does deserve U.S. attention. It is without a doubt a rogue nation. The once oil-rich country has plummeted into poverty, its people are starving, its constitutional guarantees under attack. Venezuela accused opposition leader López, an economist trained in the U.S.,  of inciting violence and anti-government protests. He was imprisoned about three years ago.

Obama Executive Order

Before leaving office, Barack Obama renewed an executive order designating Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to national security. Obama explained that Venezuela’s situation had not improved since the original executive order dated March 2015.

Obama argued against the Venezuelan government’s alleged “erosion of human rights guarantees, persecution of political opponents, curtailment of press freedoms, use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-government protests, and arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-government protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant government corruption.”

Venezuela Shuts Down CNN en Español

Venezuela this week took CNN en Español off the air over its report about fraudulent Venezuelan passports, including passports to people alleged to have terrorism ties. It was one of Venezuela’s few remaining foreign news gathering operations.

CNN en Español  “instigates religious, racial and political hatred,” justified Venezuela’s Telecommunications Commission Director Andrés Eloy Méndez, who also accused the network of distorting the truth, generating a climate of intolerance and being an “imperialistic media organization.”

CNN en Español responded that it would put its live feed on YouTube and make it available in Venezuela.

Sanctions Venezuela Vice President

Prior to the Venezuelan government pulling the plug on CNN en Español the Trump administration hit Venezuela Vice President Tareck El Aissami with sanctions, stating he’s an international drug trafficker. The U.S. Treasury Department’s sanctions freezes El Aissami’s assets in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from doing business with him.

CNN en Español and CNN conducted a year-long investigation into El Aissami, linking him to the passport scandal as well.

Protest at Lake Eola

On Saturday the Orlando area’s Venezuelan community was scheduled to march in Lake Eola against the Venezuelan government’s latest move. “No+ Dictatura en Venezuela” read poster for the event, to place at the bust of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan who “liberated the Americas” in the 19th century.

The protest was to take place in conjunction with worldwide protests in 18-plus cities around the world, also including Miami, New York, Houston, Charlotte (NC) and Washington, D.C.

Orlando’s Venezuelan community tends to be fiercely against President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez. Some people posted the CNN live feed link on their Facebook pages.

“Hasta cuando Venezuela, cada día nos cierran más las pocas ventanas de liberated de expresión, reaccionemos,” stated the Facebook post of Pedro Elías Carrasco García, who lives in Venezuela. (Until when, Venezuela. Each day they close the few windows of freedom of expression. We should react.”

Miss Universo vs. Donald Trump

Former Miss Universo Alicia Machado holds up her American passport in a photo she posted on Twitter.

The world may have long forgotten Alicia Machado, but the Latinoverse knows exactly who she is. !Miss Universo!

Miss Universo is serious stuff. It’s a hotly coveted title among Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Venezuela and Puerto Rico, which have won the most crowns. The Latinoverse stops when Miss Universo comes to the boob tube. Ask any Hispanic. Por fa.

The Latinoverse remembers all too well how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hounded 1996 Miss Universo Machado, who is Venezuelan, calling her out and humiliating her publicly, because she gained 55 pounds during her beauty reign.

None of this would be important – it’s a beauty pageant, for crying out loud!  Women parade in bikinis and call it an accomplishment – except it does speak to Trump’s treatment of women.

According to Buzzfeed News, Trump laughed during a Howard Stern interview as Stern “viciously mocked Machado for gaining weight. Trump called her an ‘eating machine’ and said ‘she ate a lot of everything.’ ”

He could have handled the Machado issue in a lawyerly way, quietly pointing out through intermediaries that her contract stipulates this or that. But nooo, he did his blustery best to control her and shame her  – publicly. That’s what’s at issue.

It’s Donald Trump as Fred Flintstone grabbing Wilma by the hair.

With Trump it all boils down to shouting and figuratively shoving women – as he did during the debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton, interrupting and shouting over her dozens of times.

Now Trump is miffed – not about his dismal performance during the first presidential primary but at Machado, who is now a foot soldier in Clinton’s campaign. Machado earned American citizenship and  taped a campaign ad for Clinton.

In the ad, Machado tells how Trump called her “Miss Piggy” because of her weight gain and “Miss Housekeeping” ostensibly because she’s Hispanic. (It’s well known that a shapelier, fuller figure is a Latino standard of beauty. Machado later lost weight and visited El Sentinel  in 2004 when I was editor showing off her slim self and promoting a music CD titled “Alicia Machado,” which the Latinoverse has long forgotten.)

Trump singled out this debate exchange over more substantive ones on Fox TV because tiara territory is a topic Trump understands and knows well. After all, he owned  the Miss Universe pageant in 1996 when Machado won the beauty crown. He has implied that this experience with the pageant gave him insight into how to seek world peace, to paraphrase a line in the 2000 film Miss Congeniality.

What’s got Trump all totaled is that Alicia Machado had the gall to call him out. How dare she? She’s a woman. That is the world according to Trump.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor