President Donald Trump pressed his aides on whether to invade Venezuela to topple the ruling Maduro dictatorship, according to an Associated Press report published Wednesday.
An anonymous administration official who allegedly spoke with the Associated Press said that, during a meeting last July between Trump, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Trump suggested that a military intervention may be the best solution to promote regional security and end the suffering of the Venezuelan people.
The AP claims Trump’s advisers met the idea with shock, stating that further military intervention could undermine the U.S.’s relationship with regional governments. Trump reportedly pushed back on their concerns, citing the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s as successful military interventions in Latin America.
“Venezuela is a mess, it is very dangerous mess, and a very sad situation,” Trump said in a press conference shortly after their meeting. “We have many options for Venezuela, I’m not ruling out military options.”
“This is our neighbor … Venezuela is not far away,” he continued. “The people are suffering and they are dying, we have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”
In September, Trump also raised the possibility at a meeting with four Latin American leaders, including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, at the U.N. General Assembly, according to Colombian officials speaking to the AP.
The report claims those allies told Trump they opposed an invasion, while the Mercosur trade bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay later warned that “the only acceptable means of promoting democracy are dialogue and diplomacy” and opposing “any option that implies the use of force.”
Over the past year, the U.S. has imposed multiple sanctions against the Maduro regime targeting its economy, oil industry, and the personal assets of senior government officials.
Despite opposition to the proposal among regional allies, many in Venezuela’s anti-socialist protest movement appear to be warming to the idea of the U.S. toppling Maduro through military action. Some have openly asked Trump to open a “humanitarian corridor” to the struggling Venezuelan people that could involve the use of military personnel.
Dictator Nicolás Maduro has used Trump’s rhetoric to goad his military into preparing for war with the United States.
“We have been shamelessly threatened by the most criminal empire that ever existed and we have the obligation to prepare ourselves to guarantee peace,” he declared at a military rally last November. “We need to have rifles, missiles, and well-oiled tanks at the ready to defend every inch of the territory if need be.”