President Trump, speaking Friday from his golf club in New Jersey, said he would not rule out a “military option” in responding to Venezuela’s political crisis.
“We have many options for Venezuela,” Trump said. “And, by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option. We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor, you know, we’re all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they’re dying.”
Trump then echoed his statement that the United States has “many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.”
A political crisis has enveloped the small South American country; its people want to unseat President Nicolás Maduro, but Maduro, in a power grab, on July 30 seated key assembly members to rewrite the country’s constitution through what critics have called an illegitimate election.
In months of protests and demostrations, Maduro has cracked down on his opposition, removing and arresting officials who defy him.
The Associated Press, citing activists, reported that “about a third of the nation’s opposition mayors have been removed from office or jailed or are under threat of arrest.”
At least 125 people have died since the protests began in early April, according to CNN.
Trump has been blasting Maduro’s moves to consolidate power, describing him as a ‘‘dictator.’’
The Trump administration has issued a series of sanctions against Maduro and more than two dozen current and former Venezuelan officials.
But a military intervention would be an extraordinary escalation in response.
Trump’s threat of a ‘‘military option’’ in Venezuela seems to contradict the advice of his top national security adviser.
General H.R. McMaster said last week he didn’t want to give Maduro any ammunition to blame the ‘‘Yankees’’ for the ‘‘tragedy’’ that has befallen the oil-rich nation.
McMaster said in an interview that aired on MSNBC, ‘‘You’ve seen Maduro have some lame attempts to try to do that already.’’
McMaster said it was important for the United States and its neighbors to speak with a single voice in defense of Venezuela’s democracy.
The general said: ‘‘It’s important for us to place responsibility for this catastrophe on Maduro’s shoulders. He is the one who has caused it, and he’s the one who’s perpetuating it.’’Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz.