- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2019

Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders’ recent balk at calling Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro a dictator has not gone over well with Florida Democrats.

At issue is Mr. Sanders’ interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Tuesday, during which the democratic socialist would not give a definitive answer when asked: “Is Nicolas Maduro a dictator, senator, for you — and should he go?”

“I think there are serious questions about the recent election,” Mr. Sanders said. “There are many people who feel it was a fraudulent election. I think the United States has got to work with the international community to make sure there is a free and fair election in Venezuela. Clearly, [Mr. Maduro] has been very, very abusive. That is a decision of the Venezuelan people.”

The Sunshine State has filled with Venezuelan refugees in recent years as a result of the nation’s economic collapse and Maduro’s police-state tactics on opposition groups. Liberal activists and politicians in Florida, keen to their anti-socialist constituency, roundly lambasted Mr. Sanders and his 2020 presidential campaign.

“I’ll make it clear,” Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala tweeted Thursday. “@SenSanders does not reflect the majority of the Democratic Party. And our support for Venezuela’s interim president [opposition leader Juan Guaidó] and the Venezuelan people. Maduro is a dictator and must go.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo echoed the sentiment.

“He’s obviously clueless,” Ms. Taddeo said, Politico reported.

The Florida Democratic Party also issued a statement reiterating its support of Mr. Guaidó, who has been recognized by the U.S. and other nations as the Venezuela’s legitimate president.

“Florida Democrats have been unequivocal: We recognize Juan Guaidó as the president of Venezuela, denounce the legitimacy of the Maduro regime and his efforts to remain illegally in power,” the party said.

A foreign policy aide for Mr. Sanders’ campaign told Fox News that he found “Maduro’s violent crackdown on Venezuelan civil society and violations of their constitution are deplorable and unacceptable.”

“The United States must work with countries in the region and the international community to support free and fair elections, and to address the growing humanitarian crisis,” the aide said. “No excuse can justify keeping out humanitarian aid. Bernie strongly supports the right of democratic self-determination, for the Venezuelan people and those across the world.”

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