Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala's Take On Venezuela's Political Chaos
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We are joined now by Representative Donna Shalala, who represents a district in Miami with a lot of Venezuelans in it.
DONNA SHALALA: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Your view of the administration recognizing the head of the national assembly as the interim president.
SHALALA: Well, I think it's very important. And all of us in South Florida absolutely condone the Maduro government, which has resulted in sickness and hunger and a destroyed economy. So what the administration is doing has our support. But we also are introducing bills to make sure we protect the Venezuelans who are here in the United States, to extend temporary protected status to them. Three million Venezuelans have left, have been forced out. Thousands are in South Florida. We want to protect those that are here in the United States. But we also want to prevent the Maduro government from buying guns and tear gas and batons, anything that they could use against the people.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Representative Shalala, I want to ask you, though, what next? I mean, do you have a sense of what the administration plans to do? Fellow Floridian Senator Marco Rubio is warning of significant consequences and that all options are, quote, "on the table." What are those options?
SHALALA: Well, I think at the moment, those options have to be diplomatic. And you can see the administration using every diplomatic means that it can. The U.S. always leads with diplomacy. And all of us are waiting to see what the military will do and to make sure that we send very clear messages of our support for the people of Venezuela, for the acting president as well as for military leaders that are prepared to step up and bring down the Maduro government.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Would you support military intervention, if it comes to that?
SHALALA: I think that option, which, obviously, the administration is talking about - it's too early to come to any conclusion until we have used everything else.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has been unfolding for a long time. I mean, would you support the military intervening in Venezuela?
SHALALA: The United States military intervening in Venezuela - it's literally too early to come to a conclusion about that option. There are plenty of other options that we're now exercising. And the Venezuelan people and the military have to make a decision about whether they want freedom and they want to rebuild their country. And I think all of us want to support all of those efforts.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Since I have you on the line, I must ask you about the shutdown. The president is promising another go around if he doesn't get some funding for his wall in three weeks. What do you want from these negotiations? You've said that you are looking for TPS for Venezuelans. Should immigration be on the table?
SHALALA: Well, I would love for immigration to be on the table, including extending TPS for the Haitians, the Hondurans, the El Salvadorians, the Nicaraguans, all of those who have had their TPS cut off now. And so we'll be looking to see whether that's possible, as well as for the DACA kids, many of whom I know from the University of Miami. But I'm not sure that we can get full immigration reform as part of this deal. The president has an edifice complex. He's totally focused on building a wall. But we have seen some softening of his position. We are focused on border security, which measures - measures which include investments in technology and personnel as well as whatever barriers are necessary but certainly not a rigid approach.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Whatever barriers are necessary - I want to - we don't have much time. But are you saying there might be some flexibility with building barriers?
SHALALA: There always has been flexibility about fencing that needs to be strengthened. This is not a rigid position by the Democrats. We have never said that a comprehensive border security system wouldn't include some fencing. But technology and personnel as well as respecting the amnesty laws of the United States are extremely important...
SHALALA: ...As well as strengthening the ports of entry...
SHALALA: ...Which is where the drugs come into this country.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: We'll have to leave it there, I'm afraid. Representative Donna Shalala, a Democrat representing Florida's 27th district - thank you so much.
SHALALA: You're welcome.
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