Republicans discuss U.S. crackdown on 'Troika of Tyranny'

Lawmakers meet with political exiles from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua

DORAL, Fla. – Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart met with a group of Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans who welcome President Donald Trump's foreign policy of involvement in their countries. 

They celebrated John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser, when he referred to the leadership in the three countries as the "Troika of Tyranny" during his recent visit to Coral Gables to honor Bay of Pigs veterans. 

Scott, Rubio and Diaz-Balart have all said the socialist leaders of the three countries need to be ousted for the sake of those countries' freedom and prosperity. On Friday at the Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine in Miami-Dade County's city of Doral, Scott blamed Russia, China, Iran and Cuba. 

"You look at all the bad players and see what's happened there," Scott said. "You've got Russia, you've got Iran, you've got Hezbollah. They are all there."

While the Florida Republicans met in Doral, there were two important meetings in Washington. Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan at the Pentagon. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump spoke on the phone.

Trump's administration has been considering the Russian and Chinese influence in the three countries a threat, but on Friday Trump signaled there was a shift. The Kremlin said Putin talked to Trump about the need to respect Venezuelans' right to determine their future. 

"As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing," Trump tweeted referring to the U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's 448-page report into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Trump also told reporters Putin "is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela, and I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid. Right now people are starving."

Pompeo's meeting with Shanahan also included U.S. Southern Command chief Craig Faller, the director of national Intelligence, the acting White House chief of staff, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the undersecretary of defense for policy. 

"Timing of actions is always the question," Shanahan told reporters about the option of U.S. military action in Venezuela and other contingency plans. "We have a comprehensive set of options tailored to certain conditions."

Shanahan said he doesn't feel like the U.S. has an intelligence gap in Venezuela. During a Thursday night Fox News interview, Pompeo said the Venezuelan military didn't fracture in the way that he had hoped this week, but it's just a matter of time before they do.

"It's the case that Maduro may rule for a little while longer, but he is not going to govern," Pompeo said. "Structurally, there is no way he stays in power. It's time for him to leave, and we need the Cubans and the Russians to follow him out the door."

The Florida Republicans in Doral didn't discuss the statements made by Pompeo and Trump. Instead, they showed their support for the exiled community including Romy Moreno, the wife of Venezuelan political prisoner Roberto Marrero. She has found refuge in Miami-Dade County. 

She is among the Venezuelans who are waiting in anguish. Amid the chaos, human rights activists say Maduro's loyalists are still killing and wounding protesters. They are even targeting paramedics who are volunteering to assist the injured.

Rubio remains optimistic. He said the opposition has made progress in Venezuela.

"Juan Guaidó controls no security forces, has no money, controls no television stations, has no way to threaten or jail anyone, and yet he can freely walk the streets," Rubio said.  

Rubio said the notion that Maduro is winning because a Venezuelan military uprising didn't happen this week is ridiculous. 

"Nicolás Maduro cannot even leave a military base," Rubio said. "In fact, he is housed within a base within a base. He’s afraid to even move within the base itself."

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