While it’s safe to say Trump has an affinity for strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jung-Un and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, one strongman he seems to really dislike—justifiably so—is Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. And as tensions continue to rise in Venezuela as opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela until free and transparent elections are held, the Trump administration’s attacks on the Maduro regime continue to escalate.
Just last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence issued a video message of support to Venezuelans to encourage those who were protesting the Maduro regime and expressed the U.S.’s support for Guaidó. On Monday the administration announced it would be sanctioning Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, blocking $7 billion in assets and potentially costing the country $11 billion in oil revenues. These latest efforts aimed to corner Maduro and force him to step down.
But what makes Maduro so different from Putin, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, or Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman? Why has the Trump administration never said the same about these world leaders? For one, it could be Maduro’s constant tirades against the United States. Unlike other authoritarian leaders, he isn’t looking to stroke Trump’s ego. Even after his initial dislike of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, Trump was able to resolve their issues and now considers the man he referred to as “Rocket Man” as “very honorable” and “terrific.” It could also be that Venezuela does not pose a serious security threat to the U.S., which gives Trump more leverage to go after Maduro.