TRUMP

brings up a ‘mil­i­tary op­tion’ for Venezuela.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JILL COLVIN AND JOSHUA GOOD­MAN In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Lolita C. Bal­dor of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Fri­day that he wouldn’t rule out mil­i­tary ac­tion against Venezuela in re­sponse to po­lit­i­cal up­heaval in the coun­try since Pres­i­dent Nicolas Maduro’s power grab.

Speak­ing to re­porters at his Bed­min­ster, N.J., golf club, Trump be­moaned the coun­try’s grow­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and de­clared that all op­tions re­main on the ta­ble — in­clud­ing a po­ten­tial mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

“We have many op­tions for Venezuela, and by the way, I’m not go­ing to rule out a mil­i­tary op­tion,” Trump said, adding, “A mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion and mil­i­tary op­tion is cer­tainly some­thing that we could pur­sue.”

Trump’s com­ment marks an es­ca­la­tion in rhetoric for the U.S., which has up un­til now stressed a re­gional ap­proach that en­cour­ages Latin Amer­i­can al­lies to es­ca­late pres­sure on the Maduro regime. Hours be­fore Trump’s com­ments, a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity stressed that ap­proach while brief­ing re­porters on Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s trip to the re­gion in the com­ing days.

Venezuela’s de­fense min­is­ter, an ally of Maduro, called Trump’s talk of a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion an act of “crazi­ness” and “supreme ex­trem­ism.”

Gen. Vladimir Padrino said, “With this ex­trem­ist elite that’s in charge in the U.S., who knows what will hap­pen to the world?”

The White House later re­leased a state­ment say­ing it had re­jected a re­quest from Maduro to speak by phone with Trump. The state­ment said, “Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democ­racy is re­stored in that coun­try.”

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has slapped a se­ries of sanc­tions against Maduro and more than two dozen cur­rent and for­mer Venezue­lan of­fi­cials in re­sponse to a crack­down on op­po­si­tion lead­ers and the re­cent elec­tion of a con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly charged with rewrit­ing the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion.

But even as the list of tar­geted in­di­vid­u­als has grown longer, promised eco­nomic sanc­tions have yet to ma­te­ri­al­ize amid an out­cry by U.S. oil com­pa­nies over the like­li­hood that a po­ten­tial ban on petroleum im­ports from Venezuela — the third-largest sup­plier to the U.S. — would hurt U.S. jobs and drive up gas costs.

Trump’s threat of mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Venezuela also seems to con­tra­dict the ad­vice of his top na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser. Cit­ing the re­sent­ment stirred in Latin Amer­ica by the long U.S. his­tory of mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tions in the re­gion, Gen. H.R. McMaster said he didn’t want to give Maduro any am­mu­ni­tion to blame the “Yan­kees” for the “tragedy” that has be­fallen the oil-rich na­tion.

“You’ve seen Maduro have some lame at­tempts to try to do that al­ready,” McMaster said in an in­ter­view that aired last Satur­day on MSNBC.

Rather than send in the Marines, McMaster said it was im­por­tant for the U.S. and its neigh­bors to speak with a sin­gle voice in de­fense of Venezuela’s democ­racy.

“It’s im­por­tant for us to place re­spon­si­bil­ity for this catas­tro­phe on Maduro’s shoul­ders. He is the one who has caused it, and he’s the one who’s per­pet­u­at­ing it,” he said.

Al­most since Maduro took of­fice in 2013, he has been warn­ing of U.S. mil­i­tary de­signs on Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil re­serves.

In­for­ma­tion Min­is­ter Ernesto Vil­le­gas called Trump’s re­marks “the most grave and in­so­lent threat ever taken against the fa­ther­land of Bo­li­var,” re­fer­ring to the na­tion’s in­de­pen­dence hero. He called on all “good-minded” Venezue­lans to unite to re­ject for­eign in­ter­ven­tion.

At the Pen­tagon, spokesman Mark Wright said the De­fense De­part­ment con­tin­u­ously con­ducts con­tin­gency plan­ning for pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tions all around the world.

“Our job is to be pre­pared and be able to of­fer those op­tions to the pres­i­dent,” he said.

Still, a se­nior U.S. of­fi­cial said the Pen­tagon is un­aware of any com­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion in Venezuela. The of­fi­cial was not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss the mat­ter pub­licly so spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Sep­a­rately Fri­day, Peru ex­pelled Venezuela’s am­bas­sador as part of what it said was a firm com­mit­ment “to help re­store Venezuela’s democ­racy.”

The Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment re­tal­i­ated by or­der­ing the head of Peru’s em­bassy in Caracas to leave and called Peru­vian Pres­i­dent Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski an “en­emy” of Venezuela and of Latin Amer­i­can unity.

Peru gave Am­bas­sador Diego Molero, a for­mer Venezue­lan de­fense min­is­ter, five days to leave the coun­try. Peru’s ad­min­is­tra­tion also re­fused to ac­cept a diplo­matic protest made by Maduro over Peru’s host­ing this week of for­eign min­is­ters from 17 re­gional na­tions who re­fused to rec­og­nize the new con­sti­tu­tional as­sem­bly.

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