The question came at the very end of a press conference dominated by fevered talk of Ukraine, Joe Biden, and impeachment. You’d be forgiven if you missed it entirely. President Donald Trump encouraged reporters assembled for the United Nations General Assembly to ask him about the booming U.S. economy. He didn’t get his wish. Trump called on a woman who identified herself as a Venezuelan journalist: “How are you doing over there?” Trump inquired.
“Our situation is pretty bad,” she responded.
“Yeah. I would say ‘pretty bad,’” the president agreed. “Sad.”
“But we are fighting,” she said. She wondered what Trump made of the fact that Venezuela’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro, remains in power—nine months after the United States and more than 50 other countries recognized Juan Guaidó, the head of the opposition-controlled and democratically elected National Assembly, as the nation’s legitimate leader. Since then, the Trump administration has imposed ever more severe sanctions on Venezuela and welcomed Guaidó’s representatives in Washington, D.C. Yet Guaidó’s bid to unseat Maduro, who still controls the security forces and is supported by Cuba and Russia, has stalled since a failed uprising in April. Negotiations between the Maduro and Guaidó camps on a potential political transition, mediated by Norway, broke down earlier this month. In the meantime, one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises has only deepened amid the diplomatic impasse and economic pressure from the U.S. and its allies.