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John Bolton discusses Trump's ignorance about Venezuela with Jorge Ramos

In an interview Jorge Ramos for Sunday's 'Al Punto' show, John Bolton says "Donald Trump is very different from other presidents and that political calculations are almost the only things that he considers."
28 Jun 2020 – 10:38 AM EDT
John Bolton Crédito: Reuters

Below is the English-language translation of Univision’s interview with John Bolton d iscussing his new book 'The Room Where it Happened,' for Sunday's 'Al Punto' show with Jorge Ramos.

Jorge Ramos: Ambassador Bolton, thank you so much for talking to us.

John Bolton: Glad to be with you. Thank you for having me.

JR: You write in your book a lot about Venezuela and in the end, you say that Venezuela will be free. The question is why? Was there ever a plan to invade Venezuela or to conduct a military intervention in Venezuela in order to oust Nicolás Maduro?

JB: No, certainly the United States looking at Venezuela, as with any country where there are American diplomatic representatives, always has contingency plans to ensure their safety. But our view always was that the opposition in Venezuela was the legitimate voice of the people. We think they had popular support. They took it on to go after Maduro because they were worried if they didn't in January of 2019, they might never have another chance. And we supported them. But this revolution was made in Venezuela by the Venezuelan people, not by the United States.

🇻🇪 En una entrevista con Jorge Ramos el exasesor de seguridad nacional John Bolton explica por qué falló el plan del...

Posted by Univision Noticias on Friday, June 26, 2020

JR: However, you're right, Trump wanted a military option and at some point, he's been quoted saying that it would be cool to invade Venezuela. What happened?

JB: Well, we all heard that and all I can say is that it was never the policy of the United States to do it. It's an example, sadly, of some of the things the president says sometimes because he doesn't know enough about the circumstances he faces and doesn't necessarily think through the implications of his comments.

JR: Did you underestimate Nicolás Maduro? Did you overestimate Juan Guaidó and the opposition?

JB: No, I don't think so. You know, we heard very clearly from Guaidó and the opposition that they knew that their effort beginning in early 2019 was going to be difficult. But as I say, they thought this might be the last chance. And we thought the same thing. The presence of thousands of Cuban advisers, quote-unquote, in Venezuela, a heavy presence of Russians, heavy Russian and Chinese financial involvement, Iranian involvement. All of this propping up the Maduro government made it very hard for the people of Venezuela across the spectrum to make their voices heard. We knew this was a gamble. The president knew it was a gamble, but it was the best chance the opposition thought they had, and we thought we should support them.

JR: There was a picture of you with a legal pad with a note that said 5,000 troops to Colombia. What was that all about?

JB: Well, you know, if I explained what that was about, it would cause another series of unfortunate stories. Look, the fact is that there was a provision of substantial U.S. humanitarian assistance at the time. Some of it was flown into Colombia on military aircraft. But the point was, we were looking at ways to support the opposition in a variety of different economic and political ways. And that's what our focus always was.

JR: You are right that the president's decisions are driven by reelection calculations. Do you think that the visit of the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Washington will be used for Trump's reelection?

JB: I think that's very much on the president's mind. I think the recent visit of Polish President Duda, of whom I'm a very strong supporter myself, I think was in the same vein. Look, all presidents take political decisions into account. A lot of state visits have political implications. The point I was trying to make is that Donald Trump is very different from other presidents and that political calculations are almost the only things that he considers.

JR: You also write that the government was consumed by disputes on how to fund Trump's wall. And if you remember, five years ago, then-candidate Donald Trump said that Mexican immigrants were bringing drugs, were bringing crime, and we're rapists. Is President Trump, a racist?

JB: Look, I don't think he said anything during my tenure that would indicate that if he had, I would have written about it. I can simply speak to my own position. I do think that the United States benefits by immigration in a way most Americans today are descended from immigrants. I also think that we should be able to determine how those immigrants come into the country and that it's the United States that should determine it and not the immigrants themselves. But I think, frankly, that view is not very extraordinary within the Republican Party. I think we all know how much America benefits from immigrants.

JR: Ambassador, thanks so much for talking to us.

JB: Well, thank you for having me.