As Venezuelan socialist strongman Nicolas Maduro consolidates his power at home, he may have very big problems from countries abroad — especially the United States.
Speaking from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, President Donald Trump on Friday warned the Venezuelan leader that a military option was on the table if Maduro continued to crack down on dissidents and subvert the nation’s democracy.
“They have many options for Venezuela — and, by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post.
“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. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary.”
When a reporter asked the president whether such an action would be U.S.-led, Trump was more reticent.
“We don’t talk about it, but a military operation, a military option is certainly something that we could pursue,” he said.
Well, talk about a surprise for the media.
The move comes as pressure builds on the beleaguered Venezuelan president, who was the chosen successor of Hugo Chavez, after a vote last month established an all-powerful constituent assembly to redraft the country’s constitution.
The nature of the election ensured the assembly was packed with individuals loyal to Maduro, which means 2017 local elections and the 2018 presidential election are almost certain to be canceled — essentially turning the elected Maduro into a dictator.
Maduro has tried to reach out to Trump in recent weeks, according to Fox News, even saying he wanted to meet with the president to patch up the relationship between Venezuela and the United States after a new round of sanctions. On Friday, Maduro even tried to call the president, according to the White House, although President Trump said he wouldn’t accept the call until “democracy is restored in that country. “
“Since the start of this administration, President Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela’s constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela’s great people,” a White House statement from press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the attempted call read, according to The Hill.
“The Maduro regime has refused to heed this call, which has been echoed around the region and the world. Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship.
“The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of their continued oppression by the Maduro regime,” the statement continued. “President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country.”
Given that Maduro is faced with hyperinflation and pervasive dissent throughout the streets of Venezuela, that’s not good news for the nascent dictator.
And, if Trump’s talk of a military option is more than a threat, the rebuffed phone call could be the least of Maduro’s concerns.
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