President Donald Trump did not discard the possibility of military intervention against the socialist dictatorship in Venezuela Friday evening in a conversation with reporters.
Trump remark comes less than 24 hours after dictator Nicolás Maduro announced he had ordered his foreign ministry to reach out to Washington for “in person” talks with the president, hoping to schedule them for September, when Maduro seeks to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting. U.S. Treasury sanctions currently ban Maduro from entering the United States.
“Venezuela is a mess, it is very dangerous mess, and a very sad situation,” Trump said during remarks to reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Friday.
“We have many options for Venezuela, I’m not ruling out military options,” he said.
— La Chilindrina (@amotinada) August 11, 2017
Trump made his remarks after meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
“This is our neighbor … Venezuela is not far away,” Trump said, referring to the close proximity of the country in Latin America. “The people are suffering and they are dying, we have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”
Pressed for details from reporters, Trump declined to specify who would lead the operation or any potential plans.
“We don’t talk about it,” he said.
Trump also referred to Venezuela as “a mess, a very dangerous mess, and a very sad situation.”
Venezuela is facing a severe economic and political crisis after nearly two decades of socialism, recently exacerbated by the Socialist Party’s (PSUV) attempt to replace the democratically-elected National Assembly with a legislature comprised of hand-picked Maduro supporters. The Venezuelan news outlet Runrunes has documented 156 deaths as a result of police brutality against peaceful protesters throughout the country since late March, when citizens took the streets to protest the Supreme Court’s attempt to annul the opposition-held National Assembly and establish itself as the legislative branch of the country.
The U.S. Treasury has repeatedly sanctioned senior Venezuelan officials since Trump assumed the presidency in January. In July, the Treasury sanctioned Maduro personally, banning him from the United States and prohibiting Americans from conducting business with him. Trump has also met personally with Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuela’s most prominent political prisoner, Leopoldo López, in the Oval Office and has asserted he “will not stand by” as Venezuela collapses.
Senator Marco Rubio, who brought Tintori to the White House, has said the Venezuelan political crisis is a “personal priority” for the president.