As the pressure builds on the embattled president of Venezuela, US President Donald Trump hasn’t ruled out military action.
President Donald Trump reiterated in comments broadcast Sunday that a US military intervention in Venezuela was “an option,” as international pressure ramps up on embattled head of state Nicolas Maduro to step down.
Asked in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” what could lead the United States to use military force in the crisis-wracked country, the president declined to give a specific answer.
“But certainly it’s something that’s on the — it’s an option,” he said. The United States recognised Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on January 23, and is leading an international campaign to drive Maduro from office.
Guaido says the constitution entitles him to serve as interim head of state because Maduro’s re-election last May was invalid, his strongest opponents having been barred from running.
Four major European nations — Britain, France, Germany and Spain — have said they will likewise recognise Guaido’s opponent unless Maduro calls new presidential elections by midnight on Sunday.
Trump has repeatedly warned “all options are on the table” in Venezuela, as his administration ramps up the pressure on Maduro through economic sanctions and appeals to the country’s armed forces to switch allegiances.
Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left it suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro refuses to let aid into Venezuela, claiming it would precede a US-led military intervention.
Maduro flatly rejected Sunday a call by European countries to call snap elections after Guaido declared himself the Latin American country’s interim leader.
Maduro said in an interview with Spanish television station Sexta that he would not “cave in to pressure” from those calling for his departure.
“They are trying to corner us with ultimatums to force us into an extreme situation of confrontation,” Maduro said.
Seven EU states had given Maduro a Sunday deadline to call snap presidential elections or see them recognise Guaido as interim president.
Guaido, already recognised by the United States, Canada, Australia and several Latin American countries, said Sunday he would lobby the European Union for badly-needed humanitarian aid to a nation wracked by economic crisis.
“We are going to exercise our powers to deal with the crisis, restore democracy and achieve freedom,” the 35-year-old National Assembly leader said on Twitter.
Guaido was also expected to announce a date for the arrival of humanitarian aid from the US — a path President Maduro believes will lead to a US-led military intervention.
Guaido says up to 300,000 people are “at risk of death” in Venezuela for want of humanitarian aid.
Under Maduro’s stewardship, oil-dependent Venezuela has lurched into an economic crisis that has left the country suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of food and medicine.
But he refuses to let aid into the country. At his rally on Saturday, he called the opposition “imperialist beggars,” claiming a US pledge to deliver $20 million in aid would precede military intervention.
Guaido also called for a new demonstration on February 12, and another protest to push for the entry of aid.
Speaking at the European Union’s headquarters in the east of the capital, he said this month “should be decisive.” All eyes are on the military, which has so far been Maduro’s main pillar of support, but there have been signs of unrest in the ranks.
On January 21, a group of 27 soldiers rose up against Maduro in Caracas. Although that was quickly suppressed, it helped spark a week of protests in which 40 people were killed in clashes with security forces, with hundreds more arrested, according to the United Nations.
European and Latin American states have formed a “Contact Group” giving themselves 90 days to resolve the crisis. They will meet in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo next Thursday, the EU said.
Meanwhile, the 14-nation Lima Group — made up of Canada and Latin American countries — meets in Ottawa on Monday. Eleven of its members have recognised Guaido.
Guaido moved to expand his international support by reassuring China — Venezuela’s main creditor and a long-time ally of the socialist regimen — that he would honour bilateral agreements if successful in ousting Maduro.
Another key ally, Russia, hit out Sunday against “destructive outside interference” in Venezuela’s problems.