Strongmen Have the Edge With Trump. Why Not Maduro?

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Since President Trump took office almost 18 months ago, commentators have remarked on his apparent affinity for strongmen. As The Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman commented, “Trump […] seems to prefer dictators to our democratic allies everywhere.” To be sure, this doesn’t mean that Mr. Trump can’t have acceptable working relations with democratic leaders, such as President Emmanuel Macron of France. But, in general terms, he seems more at ease with — and respectful of — authoritarian leaders such as the presidents Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt and, of course, Vladimir Putin of Russia. In short, strongmen have the edge.

Last month’s summit in Singapore with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, sparked especially strong reactions. In an interview last week, the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen echoed Mr. Friedman’s comments, asserting that Mr. Trump, “has a desperate desire to be liked and affirmed by the dictators of the world.” On Monday, as Mr. Trump meets with Mr. Putin in Helsinki, yet another round of media commentary on the president’s penchant for antidemocratic leaders can be expected.

There is, however, one glaring exception to this troubling pattern: Mr. Trump cannot seem to abide strongmen when it comes to Latin America. On Cuba policy, Mr. Trump reversed the rapprochement — President Barack Obama’s chief legacy in Latin America — with renewed sanctions “until freedoms are restored.” Soon after the 2016 election, Mr. Trump celebrated the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s death and has used aggressive rhetoric against Fidel’s brother Raul Castro, who recently stepped down from the island’s presidency but remains very powerful.

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Read the full article in The New York Times


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