Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.
This week, the Trump administration took the rare step of declaring Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro a “dictator,” freezing his assets and banning Americans from doing business with him.
It looked like a big deal. Phones pinged with alerts, and cable news channels carried the announcement live. Maduro was now the fourth member of an exclusive club of sanctioned dictators, joining Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
“Maduro is not just a bad leader; he is now a dictator,” President Donald Trump said in a statement.
I watched this movie again and again in the three years I spent covering Venezuela for the Associated Press.…