President Donald Trump’s visit to Doral Friday is a “photo-op and a distraction from his failures” in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, former Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement to the Miami Herald that also criticized the president’s response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
With Trump set to visit U.S. Southern Command in Miami-Dade County — the epicenter of Florida’s worsening coronavirus outbreak — the president’s likely opponent in November ripped his efforts to downplay the threat and extent of the pandemic, noting that hospitalizations and COVID-19 positive test rates have been increasing in Florida as confirmed cases reach new heights.
“With over 232,000 cases in the state and over 4,000 deaths in Florida, it is clear that Trump’s response — ignore, blame others, and distract — has come at the expense of Florida families,” Biden said. “Just this week, area hospital facilities are reporting they are either at or near capacity as more patients are being diagnosed as critically ill and in need of hospitalization. Unemployment remains high and many still are having trouble accessing their benefits.”
An April statewide stay-at-home order by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis contributed to a plateau of cases in May and into June — a stretch during which the Republican National Committee chose to move Trump’s convention acceptance speech and related events to Jacksonville. But the outbreak intensified in June, and on Thursday, the state reported its most deaths in a single day — 120 — since the pandemic began.
“As President Trump comes to Doral today, he will surely say nothing reassuring about the issues facing Floridians due to COVID-19. He will surely not mention the real consequences of his fight against the Affordable Care Act, the life-saving legislation that has in some ways benefited Hispanics more than anyone else,” Biden told the Miami Herald.
In a statement, the Trump campaign accused Biden of mismanaging the country’s stockpile of emergency medical supplies and criticized Biden’s role in passing Obamacare.
“This is rich coming from the former vice president who oversaw the depletion of our national stockpile and championed a broken healthcare law,” Trump campaign spokesperson Andres Malave said in an email.
Trump, who has accused Biden of hiding from the press during the pandemic, is flying into Miami-Dade Friday to visit the U.S. Southern Command — the military post overseeing operations in the Caribbean and South America — and receive a briefing on counter-narcotics operations in the region. Afterward, he plans to participate in a round-table conversation about “supporting the people of Venezuela” at Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center, located in the heart of the U.S. Venezuelan exile community. Later, he is heading to a fundraiser at a private residence in Hillsboro Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale.
Trump’s administration has attempted to oust embattled Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro by backing opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who declared himself the rightfully elected president of Venezuela under the country’s constitution.
Trump’s campaign has criticized Biden’s eight years as vice president as a time in which the U.S. placated the Maduro regime. The campaign kicked off Friday morning by issuing a statement mocking a brief face-to-face conversation Biden had with Maduro in Brazil in 2015, after which a Brazilian newspaper reported that the former vice president complimented Maduro’s hair.
“When given the chance, why didn’t you stand up to brutal Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro and instead palled around with him and made a joke about his hair?” the campaign asked in an email posing the “question of the day.”
In Malave’s statement, he said,“President Trump has earned our trust by keeping Maduro in check and weakening his regime.”
Biden and a former administration official-turned-campaign adviser who witnessed the conversation have said the former vice president told Maduro to release political prisoners and set up fair elections. On Friday, Biden criticized Trump’s recent statements that he would meet with Maduro to discuss a peaceful transition of power, and said “the president has been unreliable and self-centered in his approach to the issues closest to the Venezuelan people.”
“He will also surely not mention his stated willingness to sit down with dictator Nicolás Maduro,” Biden said. “Instead, he will use the trip as a photo-op and a distraction from his failures.”
Biden promised to grant Venezuelans already in the U.S. Temporary Protected Status — a program allowing them to temporarily live and work legally in the country — which is a step Trump has been unwilling to make despite urging by Miami Republicans. He said that, as president, he would lead an “international response” to the crisis in Venezuela, target “government officials and their cronies involved in corruption and human rights abuses” and work toward “restoring democracy in Venezuela and aiding in the country’s long-term recovery.”
Miami Herald Washington correspondent Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.