During a press conference outside his Bedminster resort on Friday
evening, President Donald Trump suggested the US was weighing
military options in response to ongoing turmoil in Venezuela.
Ask about the US response to the political, economic, and social
crises in the South American country, Trump said, “We have
many options for Venezuela, and by the way, I’m not going to rule
out a military option.”
“We have many options for Venezuela. This is our neighbor
… this is — we’re all over the world, and we have troops all
over the world in places that are very, very far away,” Trump
added. “Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are
suffering, and they’re dying. We have many options for Venezuela,
including a possible military option, if necessary.”
Asked if it would be a US-led military operation, Trump said, “We
don’t talk about it, but a military operation, a military option
is certainly something that we could pursue.”
“I support peace. I support safety, and I support having to get
tough if we have to” in order to protect Americans and people
around the world, the president added.
After Trump’s remarks, the Pentagon said that it had not gotten
any orders on Venezuela from the White House, according to Idrees
Ali of Reuters.
The US has already issued three rounds of sanctions against
Venezuela officials over the last month. Thirteen officials were
sanctioned in mid-July, ahead of the vote to elect members to a
widely condemned constituent assembly that critics charge is a
government maneuver to consolidate power by President Nicolas
Maduro. After the vote on July 30, the US sanctioned Maduro
himself, and this week the US Treasury announced sanctions
against eight more
Venezuela is now in the fifth month of a period of protests that broke out
in early April, after the supreme court, considered by many
to aligned with Maduro, attempted to strip the opposition-led
National Assembly of its powers.
The supreme court backed off that effort, but the often violent
protests that have taken place since have left at least 120
people dead, the majority of them anti-government demonstrators,
and led to thousands of arrests.
This week, 17 countries from the region condemned the “breakdown
of democratic order” in Venezuela and said they would not
recognize the constituent assembly or any measures it may pass
regarding future joint oil ventures or debt matters.
Trump administration officials have previously said all options are on the
table” to penalize Maduro and his government, including
import or export bans on Venezuelan oil or sanctions on the
state-run oil company, Pdvsa.
A number of experts as well as US businesses have urged caution with
sanctions on the oil industry. Venezuela gets about 95% of
its export revenue from oil, and a reduction of that could hinder
its ability to buy imported food and medicine, adding to the
humanitarian crisis in the country.
Venezuela is also the US’s third-largest oil
supplier, and sanctions on that oil could affect jobs and gas
prices in the US.
Venezuela under Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, has had
contentious relations with the US and the two countries have not
had ambassadors since 2010.
On Thursday, Maduro said Venezuela “will never give in”
but also appealed for a meeting with Trump, who has called the
Venezuelan president a “dictator.”
During an address to the new, all-powerful constitutional
assembly, Maduro told his foreign minister to approach the US
about a telephone conversation or meeting with Trump.
“Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand,” Maduro said, adding that he
wants as strong a relationship with the US as he has with Russia.
You can see a clip of Trump’s comments below.