Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) on Wednesday accused the United States of being the reason behind Venezuela's precipitous collapse, saying it had been "bullying" far-left dictator Nicolas Maduro.
The Trump administration has backed opposition leader Juan Guaido as the nation's legitimate president following a sham "re-election" of Maduro in the economically devastated country. Democracy Now! anchor Amy Goodman began their interview by asking for comment on "what’s taking place right now in Venezuela, the U.S.-supported coup attempt against President Maduro?"
"You know, I mean, a lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela, and we've sort of set the stage for where we are arriving today," Omar said.
Maduro succeeded President Hugo Chavez in 2013, continuing his socialist administration but lacking his widespread popularity. Under Maduro, Venezuela's once thriving economy fell into shambles. Hyperinflation, food shortages, and rampant misadministration escalated into a brutal crackdown on those seeking reprieve.
In January, President Donald Trump recognized Guaido as the lawful leader of Venezuela, and most western nations have followed Trump's lead.
Omar blamed the "neocons and warmongers" in the U.S. for the humanitarian crisis, and she accused the U.S. of using sanctions to "bully" Venezuela's dictator out of power.
"This particular bullying and the use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela," she said.
The U.S. imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil, which the government controls and relies on for revenue.
According to the New York Times, the sanctions have worked "harder and faster than expected." The illegitimate Venezuelan government has kept oil flowing only "with some Russian help."
Omar claimed that the sanctions would hurt the Venezuelan public, rather than the government.
"Many of the sanctions that we impose ultimately lead to devastations," she said.
The freshman congresswoman claimed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright shared her view.
"I remember talking to Madam Secretary Albright and talking to her about the success of sanctions we impose around the world," Omar said, "how some of them have devastating effects on the actual population."
Albright denies the legitimacy of Maduro's regime, and recognizes Guaido as Venezuela's constitutional leader. Omar does not.
Speaking with Bloomberg‘s David Westin in January, Albright addressed regime change. Westin asked Albright, "Is the Trump administration handling Venezuela right, right now? To try to force Maduro out and go with Guaido?"
"Well I think that partially, if I may say so," Albright answered.
Albright answered that she supported the Trump administration's recognition of Guaido, and not Maduro.
"I think that it is true that Maduro really cheated in terms of building another term on the basis of a false election," she said. "And according to the Venezuelan constitution, the National Assembly does have power to do something."
"Where I part company is where they begin to talk about using military force unilaterally," she added.
Several foreign powers are actively propping up the Maduro regime, chief among them China, Russia, and Cuba.
Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), told the Senate in February that Maduro had replaced his military security with Cuban troops, for fear of deposition.
"We’ve seen reporting of Russian security forces being flown in," Faller said. "China’s not been helpful in a diplomatic way, I’ll leave that to the diplomats but China’s in there and they’re involved in cyber ways that are not helpful to a democratic outcome."
Omar offered no comment on the involvement of other foreign countries in the Western Hemisphere.