- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump greeted Colombian President Iván Duque and his wife at the White House on Wednesday, kicking off a visit that gives both leaders an opportunity to confront the crisis in Venezuela and the alarming rate of cocaine production.

Mr. Trump said Venezuela, where protesters are urging socialist President Nicolas Maduro to step down, will be the main topic of the day.

The U.S. has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as it waits to see if Mr. Maduro will cede power.

Asked if Mr. Trump will consider using military might, he said he will “look at all options.”

“I never talk about that,” ” he said.

Mr. Trump noted the U.S. military fights all over the globe but that Venezuela is a big problem in its own hemisphere.

“It’s in turmoil right now. People are being treated very badly,” Mr. Trump said. “And it’s a very sad thing to witness, especially since we’re so close. We fight all over the world and then you look at what happens right at our front door.”

Mr. Duque urged the global community to step up pressure, saying Mr. Maduro cannot hold out forever.

“I think the days for this dictatorship are about to end, and we have to continue working on that,” he said. “President Guaido, who is the person about to lead this transition in Venezuela, has a strong support and we need to give him even stronger support.”

They also condemned Mr. Maduro for blocking access to large shipments of food supplies.

“We’re trying to get food to people that are starving,” Mr. Trump said. “You have people starving in Venezuela. It just shows what can happen with the wrong government. You have the wrong government, bad things happen.”

Mr. Trump and the first lady welcomed Mr. Duque and his wife, First Lady Juliana Ruiz Sandoval, on the south side of the White House and posed for pictures before heading into the Oval Office.

Besides Venezuela, the leaders are focused on slashing coca and cocaine products that’s reached record levels in Colombia. Increase production has translated into increased use, addiction and overdose deaths in the U.S., officials say.

“We’re working together so that Colombia eradicates some of what they’re growing in Colombia, I wouldn’t say at this moment you’re ahead of schedule, but hopefully you will be sometime in the near future,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Duque defended his record, however, saying the country eradicated more coca in the first four months of his administration than officials had in the preceding six months.

“We have a goal and we will commit to that goal, because it is our moral duty to have Colombia free of illegal drugs and free of [drug trafficking],” he said.

Mr. Duque is set to meet with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

He will stay until Saturday, also meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and touring the World Bank and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, before heading north to meet with credit rating agencies and ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

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