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Bernie Sanders avoids calling Venezuela’s Maduro a dictator on CNN

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Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday stopped short of referring to Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator” as he expanded on how the US should address the crisis there.

During a CNN town hall, Sanders was asked if he believes Maduro is a dictator after facing criticism from Democrats and others in recent days over his stance on the pandemonium in Venezuela.

Sanders replied, “It’s fair to say the last election was undemocratic, but there are still democratic operations taking place in that country. What I am calling for right now is internationally supervised free elections.”

“I think we’ve got to do everything we can to create a democratic climate, but I do not believe in US military intervention,” Sanders also said on Venezuela as he cited the disastrous history of US interventionism in Latin America.

Maduro is widely viewed as an authoritarian and has been rebuked throughout the international community for undemocratic practices and policies that have helped push his country into economic collapse and chaos.

But Sanders has avoided referring to him as a dictator and has not embraced Juan Guaidó, t he self-declared interim president, as the Latin American country’s legitimate leader. The US government and many of its allies have firmly supported Guaidó.

Read more: Bernie Sanders’ foreign policy adviser breaks down the senator’s progressive global agenda for 2020

Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala of Miami, Florida, who represents Venezuelan exiles, on Friday slammed Sanders in an interview with Politico over this. “He is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party. He has demonstrated again that he does not understand this situation,” Shalala said. “I absolutely disagree with his imprecision in not saying Maduro must go.”

Over the weekend, there were violent clashes at the Venezuela-Colombia border amid efforts to bring in humanitarian aid. Forces loyal to Maduro have sought to block the aid convoys from entering the country.

As Sanders answered questions on Maduro on Monday night, reports surfaced that Univision reporter Jorge Ramos and his crew had been briefly detained in Caracas because the Venezuelan leader apparently didn’t like the questions Ramos asked during an interview.

Ramos reportedly referred to Maduro as a “dictator” and a “murderer” as they spoke.

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