President Donald Trump declined in a recent interview to rule out meeting with Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, expressing openness to a presidential visit that would upend his administration’s hard-line policy toward the dictator.

Axios reported Sunday that when a reporter asked Trump if he would meet with Maduro, the president replied: “I would maybe think about that. … Maduro would like to meet. And I’m never opposed to meetings — you know, rarely opposed to meetings.”

Trump’s comments — including ambivalence toward his 2019 decision to recognize National Assembly head Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president — came days after release of former security advisor John Bolton’s book describing Trump’s public toughness toward Maduro as an attempt to win Republican votes in South Florida.

The president’s Axios interview brought quick condemnation from Miami-Dade Democrats. “It is a sad day for the Venezuelan people, democracy and American leadership,” Rep. Donna Shalala, a Democrat representing a Miami-area district, said in a Twitter post about the Axios story. “I stand with Juan Guaido and the people of Venezuela.”

“This betrayal of the fight for democracy in Venezuela confirms that Trump’s rhetoric was false hope all along,” Florida Sen. José Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, wrote on Twitter. “This is a slap in the face to our vibrant Venezuelan community,” Miami-Dade commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, a Democrat running in the non-partisan race for county mayor in 2020, said in a statement.

South Florida is the heart of Venezuela’s immigrant population in the United States, with more than 100,000 residents born in that country. That makes Trump’s anti-Maduro positions — including a brief flirtation with a U.S. invasion to depose the dictator — a potentially key factor in Florida, a state the president won by less than 2% in 2016. (Miami herald)