President Trump said Friday that the U.S. could take military action against Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro’s power grab.
Speaking at his New Jersey golf course Friday, Trump said he would not “rule out” a military option … it’s certainly something that we could pursue.”
Trump has been blasting Maduro’s moves to consolidate power, describing him as a “dictator.” Maduro and former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez have long argued that the U.S. has been trying to undermine them and want to force a coup in the country.
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.
Reuters reported Friday that the Pentagon said the White House hadn’t given it any orders on Venezuela.
Trump’s threats followed a move by Maduro to solidify his power by holding a disputed election on July 30 to create a new national assembly that sidesteps the opposition-controlled Congress.
The vote was widely condemned by the United States and other countries as a fraudulent effort to thwart the will of most Venezuelans and transform the country from a democracy to a socialist dictatorship like Cuba.
Although Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, its economy is collapsing because of mismanagement by Maduro’s government that has caused shortages of basic consumer products and sent inflation soaring.
Dozens of people have been killed by Venezuelan troops during months of political protests against the government.
Maduro has tried to rally public support by accusing the United States of trying to organize a coup to oust him, an allegation he likely will reassert in the wake of Trump’s comments.
Trump’s comments on Venezuela come amid rising tensions over U.S. relations with North Korea, which has threatened a missile launch toward the U.S. territory of Guam over what it perceives as Trump’s aggressive posturing.