Trump says he’s open to military action in Venezuela
President Donald Trump has said he wouldn't rule out military action against Venezuela in response to the country's descent into political chaos following President Nicolas Maduro's power grab. Venezuela's government responded by accusing Trump of seeking to destabilize Latin America.
Speaking to reporters Friday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, Trump bemoaned Venezuela's growing humanitarian crisis and declared that all options remain on the table - including a potential military intervention.
"We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I'm not going to rule out a military option," Trump volunteered, adding, "A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue."
Trump's comment mark a serious escalation in rhetoric for the U.S., which has up until now stressed a regional approach that encourages Latin American allies to escalate pressure on the Maduro regime. Hours before Trump's comments, a senior administration official speaking on condition of anonymity stressed that approach while briefing reporters on Vice President Mike Pence's upcoming trip to the region.
The White House released a statement Friday evening saying it had rejected a request from Maduro to speak by phone with Trump. The statement said, "Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country."
Trump's comments are sure to focus new attention on Pence's upcoming six-day tour of the region, which will include stops in Cartagena, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Panama City. Pence is set to arrive in Colombia on Sunday and is expected to meet with each of the countries' leaders, deliver a major speech on U.S.-Latin American relations and tour the newly expanded Panama Canal.
The trip was already sure to be dominated by discussion of Venezuela, with Pence expected to call on the leaders to continue to pressure the Maduro government and encourage others in the region to do the same.