President Donald Trump’s transactional view of foreign policy is being put to the test by the ongoing political crisis erupting in Venezuela. Last month, Trump officially recognized Juan Guaidó, the self-declared interim president of Venezuela, as the official head of state, despite current President Nicolas Maduro officially winning the 2018 elections, in hopes of opening the nation to U.S. business.

Though Maduro won the election, many have called the 2018 elections unfair due to Maduro arresting one of his primary political opponents, Leopoldo Lopez, and barring another, Henrique Capriles from participating in politics until 2032. Guaidó, who had previously been the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly for less than two months before declaring himself president, boycotted the elections after a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence where Pence offered his supportto the relatively unknown politician. Guaidó has sought to take advantage of popular discontent with Maduro’s government, which 71 percent of Venezuelans expressed dissatisfaction with in October 2016, but his abrupt announcement and rejection by the Venezuelan military as the official president have cast doubt on his legitimacy.

Though Trump and Pence both made separate claims that their support for Guaidó stem from a desire to support democracy in Venezuela, the administration's support for authoritarian rulers and a statement from National Security Advisor John Bolton telling Fox News that regime change will be good for American oil companies, have others wondering how altruistic the administration’s call for regime change are.

“[Bolton’s] quote is so real, it [was] like the 'ah-ha' moment when he said that,” WGBH News Analyst and CEO of the GroundTruth Project Charlie Sennott told Boston Public Radio on Monday. “The world is driven by geopolitical self-interest, the United States is not alone in that. But the United States and Latin America have a very bad history with exploiting our interests south of our border, and propping up regimes that were dictatorial and were brutal.”

This is not the first time the U.S. has called the Venezuelan government illegitimate. During the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the Bush administration frequently said Chavez was an illegitimate ruler, despite the Carter Center overseeing and approving of each of Chavez’s elections. In 2002, the Bush administration backed a military coup against Chavez, which failed due to popular uprisings to return the government back to him.

Citing this history, last month 70 academics and experts penned an open letter to the Trump administration asking them not to intervene in the Venezuelan elections.

“The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela’s internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country’s government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability,” the letter says.

Trump has also caught flak from left-leaning members of the Democratic Party such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who all also called on Trump not to engage militarily with the nation. Though Trump has yet to mobilize troops, on Jan. 28th, Bolton told reporters “all options are on the table” when asked if the administration would consider invading Venezuela. Trump’s decision to appoint Elliott Abrams, a convicted criminal who lied to Congress about violating U.S. law and supplying Nicaraguan terrorists with weapons in the 1980s, has also heightened suspicions he may be leaning towards using force to unseat Maduro.

Currently, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company, cutting exports by 40 percent and potentially shrinking the nation’s already struggling economy by 26 percent. Though the stated goal is to coerce Maduro to step down, many fear the sanctions will only harm Venezuelan citizens and exacerbate starvation and poverty.

“If we truly we want to help, then we have to be really cognizant of our history where we have repeatedly not helped, but hurt the situation,” Sennott said.