Re­jec­tion of a ‘mil­i­tary op­tion’

Venezuela’s neigh­bors are quick to de­fend it against a re­mark from Pres­i­dent Trump.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son and Steve Padilla tracy.wilkin­son@la­ steve.padilla@la­ Wilkin­son re­ported from Wash­ing­ton and Padilla from Los An­ge­les.

WASH­ING­TON — Latin Amer­i­can gov­ern­ments and in­sti­tu­tions, even some of Venezuela’s harsh­est crit­ics, came to the coun­try’s de­fense on Sat­ur­day, rejecting Pres­i­dent Trump’s sug­ges­tion that a “mil­i­tary op­tion” might be one way to ad­dress the tur­moil there.

“We have many op­tions for Venezuela,” Trump told re­porters at his golf club in New Jer­sey af­ter meet­ing Fri­day with United Na­tions Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley, Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor H.R. McMaster. “And by the way, I’m not go­ing to rule out a mil­i­tary op­tion.”

It was un­clear how se­ri­ously to take the threat, given Trump’s propen­sity to speak off the cuff and the ca­sual na­ture of the state­ment. He of­ten says he does not like to take any op­tions off the ta­ble be­cause he be­lieves it keeps ad­ver­saries off bal­ance.

But his dec­la­ra­tion, nonethe­less, raised con­cerns of fur­ther in­se­cu­rity at a mo­ment when many around the globe, in­clud­ing al­lies, are ques­tion­ing Amer­ica’s abil­ity to con­tinue pro­vid­ing a sta­ble source of world lead­er­ship.

The Peru­vian gov­ern­ment has ac­cused Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s gov­ern­ment of un­der­min­ing the in­sti­tu­tion of democ­racy. On Sat­ur­day, it once more con­demned the re­cent elec­tion of an as­sem­bly stacked with Maduro loy­al­ists who are charged with writ­ing a new con­sti­tu­tion. Even so, Peru re­jected Trump’s com­ments.

“Peru re­jects any threat or use of force not au­tho­rized by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of the United Na­tions,” the gov­ern­ment said in a state­ment. Colom­bia dis­missed Trump’s com­ments as well.

The South Amer­i­can trad­ing group Mer­co­sur re­peated crit­i­cism of Venezuela while rejecting the use of force to achieve change.

Mer­co­sur this month sus­pended Venezuela’s mem­ber­ship in the multi­na­tional body and on Sat­ur­day said in a state­ment that the “Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment can­not as­pire to a nor­mal co­ex­is­tence with its neigh­bors” un­til democ­racy is re­stored.

The mem­bers of Mer­co­sur are Ar­gentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. In the state­ment re­leased by the For­eign Min­istry of Ar­gentina, the group said that “the only ac­cept­able in­stru­ments for the pro­mo­tion of democ­racy are di­a­logue and diplo­macy.”

The sug­ges­tion that Trump would ini­ti­ate a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in Venezuela — some­thing no one in the in­tel­li­gence or diplo­matic com­mu­ni­ties has sug­gested — awak­ened old ghosts of U.S. in­ter­ven­tion in Latin Amer­ica and seems un­likely to pre­serve the hemi­spheric unity that Wash­ing­ton had un­til now mus­tered in op­po­si­tion to the abuses of Maduro’s gov­ern­ment.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has al­ready im­posed eco­nomic sanc­tions last month against Venezuela and Maduro, af­ter an elec­tion that so­lid­i­fied the au­thor­i­tar­ian leader’s grip on gov­ern­ment.

Ron­aldo Schemidt AFP/Getty Im­ages

AN OP­PO­SI­TION ac­tivist aims a sling­shot in Caracas, Venezuela, which has been con­vulsed by protests.

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