MIAMI – The Biden campaign and Florida Democrats are focusing on President Donald Trump’s comments that he would be willing to meet with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Trump said in an interview published by Axios on Sunday night that he is open to meet with Maduro and that he has had doubts about recognizing Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.
“You lose very little with meetings,” Trump said of a possible meeting with Maduro.
The remarks caused an uproar among political circles in South Florida, a crucial state that Trump needs to win to be reelected in November.
It also houses tens of thousands of registered Venezuelan voters who strongly oppose Maduro. Many of them have hugged Trump because of his tough conversation about socialism and the strong sanctions against Venezuelan oil and government officials. The Justice Department indicted Maduro and former regime officials on drug trafficking and corruption charges three months ago.
Democrats quickly jumped to the comments. On Sunday night, former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted, “Trump speaks harshly about Venezuela, but admires thugs and dictators like Nicolás Maduro.” He was also beaten during a virtual fundraising event on Monday night.
In an effort to distance himself from his comments, Trump tweeted on Monday morning: “Unlike the radical left, I will ALWAYS be against socialism and with the people of Venezuela.” The tweet went on to say: “My administrator has always sided with FREEDOM and FREEDOM and against the oppressive Maduro regime! I would only meet with Maduro to discuss one thing: a peaceful departure from power! ”
Not give in
Biden’s campaign is relentless and he is launching Spanish-language radio and digital ads on the Miami market later in the week, targeting Trump for his opening to meet with Maduro. Digital ads will appear on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, while the radio purchase will air on Spanish-language stations popular with Venezuelans and Cuban-Americans.
Members of the Florida Democratic Congress: Donna Shalala, Darren Soto, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, all with large Venezuelan populations in their districts, participated in a virtual conference Tuesday that criticized Trump for his opening to meet with Maduro. .
“For him to say that he would hug Maduro is unacceptable to the people of our community,” said Rep. Shalala, who is re-elected in November.
Democrats in Congress criticized Trump for failing to provide temporary protection status or TPS to Venezuelans fleeing political and economic turmoil in their countries. Trump has the power to grant TPS without the approval of Congress, but he has not.
“Their sole objective is to deceive the 400,000 Venezuelans in Florida enough to try to be reelected,” said Rep. Soto.
Mucarsel-Powell, who is also ready for reelection in a vulnerable seat, said: “Taking a meeting with Nicolás Maduro shows that he has completely ignored freedom and democracy and undermines the achievements of the legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó. , to restore democracy. ” “
Trump and other Republicans have teamed up in a messaging strategy focused on calling Democratic Socialists and telling voters that the party has strayed too far to the left.
Some Florida Republicans distanced themselves from the comments on Sunday night.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, an ally of Trump and an influential adviser on Venezuelan politics, tweeted on Monday: “We have always had some great allies on this cause on both sides. But what is ridiculous is the criticism of Biden and the Democrats who fought against me, blocked, opposed and criticized the sanctions for years and had no problem with Obama meeting with Raúl Castro who keeps Maduro in power. “
Trump’s deputy director of communications, Ali Pardo, wrote in an emailed statement, “If Joe Biden wants to do his Florida campaign on Venezuela, we would gladly welcome that debate.”
As vice president, Joe Biden was playing with Maduro and joking with his hair. President Trump has imposed the toughest sanctions against the Venezuelan dictatorship, ”the statement said.
Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.