John Bolton says Trump administration was right to try and overthrow Maduro regime in Venezuela

‘My only regret is we didn’t succeed, although we came close’

Johanna Chisholm
Saturday 07 May 2022 08:14 BST
Trump used term ‘burner phones’ several times, John Bolton says

John Bolton, who served as former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser during the height of Venezuela’s presidential crisis in early 2019, said that the one-term president was “right to try and overthrow the Maduro regime”.

The former national security adviser’s remarks were delivered on Thursday while he addressed an audience of young conservatives at an event organised by the Vandenberg Coalition in coordination with the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing Washington, DC-based think tank where Mr Bolton served as a former senior fellow, Politico first reported.

“[Trump] was right to try and overthrow the Maduro regime,” Mr Bolton reportedly said, according to Politico’s Alex Ward. “I have absolutely no regrets about that. My only regret is we didn’t succeed, although we came close.”

Mr Bolton also added that he’d thought that regime change in North Korea would’ve been “slightly easier” than the Latin American country because South Korea, a strong military ally of the US, could instal a government that could run the peninsula.

Throughout his tenure as president, Mr Trump often found himself at odds with his hawkish national security adviser when it came to foreign quagmires, particularly so when it came to the situation of President Nicolas Maduro and the crisis in Venezuela in early 2019.

In January 2019, the US became the first of what would later become 60 countries around the world to back the national assembly leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president following his assertion of legitimacy.

The crisis arose after the 2018 re-election results for embattled president Maduro, who remains in power through support from the nation’s powerful military, were largely branded as fraudulent, both by the international community and the country’s assembly.

In his personal memoir, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, from his time within the Trump administration, Mr Bolton similarly expressed his frustrations with Mr Trump’s dithering on the Venezuela file, noting that he at one point even contemplated an all-out embrace of Maduro.

For his part, Mr Trump openly bashed Mr Bolton for his interventionist stance while the two were still employed in the White House and held his former national security adviser partially responsible for the failure of the US-backed effort to oust Mr Maduro from office.

With the change of administration, the sanctions that Mr Trump levied against Venezuela in an effort to put pressure on Mr Maduro remain in place under the Biden administration, while Mr Guaido, who just rung in another year as “acting president”, remains no closer to gaining any official control of the nation.

At the same Thursday AEI event, Mr Bolton also quipped that the former president’s geopolitical strategies were near non-existent, saying he didn’t have a foreign policy but “neuron reactions”.

This article was amended on 7 May 2022. It previously referred to Mr Bolton as a current senior fellow at AEI, but he is a former senior fellow.

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