Venezuela dis­misses Trump’s ‘vile threats’

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY RACHELLE KRYGIER AND AN­THONY FAIOLA an­thony.faiola@wash­ Faiola re­ported from Mi­ami.

caracas, venezuela — Pres­i­dent Trump’s claim that he is not rul­ing out “mil­i­tary” ac­tion in Venezuela prompted a fresh wave of anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials here.

Pres­i­dent Ni­colás Maduro’s backers were us­ing Trump’s state­ment from Fri­day as a tool to unite Venezue­lans against what they per­ceive as a com­mon en­emy.

“We re­ject the cowardly, in­so­lent, and vile threats of the Pres­i­dent of the United States against the sa­cred sovereignty of Venezuela,” tweeted Delcy Ro­dríguez, Maduro’s for­mer for­eign min­is­ter. She is now pres­i­dent of the new, all-pow­er­ful and pro-gov­ern­ment Con­stituent As­sem­bly cre­ated by a con­tro­ver­sial vote last month.

On na­tional tele­vi­sion, De­fense Min­is­ter Vladimir Padrino López said: “This is an act of crazi­ness; it’s an act of supreme ex­trem­ism. There’s an ex­trem­ist elite gov­ern­ing the United States.”

Trump told jour­nal­ists Fri­day: “We are all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very far away. Venezuela is not very far away, and the peo­ple are suf­fer­ing and they’re dy­ing. We have many op­tions for Venezuela, in­clud­ing a pos­si­ble mil­i­tary op­tion, if nec­es­sary.”

Trump’s threats about a “mil­i­tary op­tion” ap­peared to be di­vid­ing U.S. al­lies in the re­gion, risk­ing the unity of Latin Amer­i­can na­tions that are seek­ing to pres­sure Venezuela’s au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment to change course.

“The gov­ern­ment of Chile re­jects the threat of a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Venezuela,” tweeted Chilean For­eign Min­is­ter Her­aldo Muñoz. He said that for­eign min­is­ters from many Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries had agreed to re­ject any mil­i­tary steps.

Rather than ap­ply­ing pres­sure, ob­servers said, claims such as Trump’s largely serve to aid Maduro.

“As we have seen with many Trump dec­la­ra­tions, they’re said in the heat of the mo­ment with no con­crete ba­sis,” said Mar­i­ano de Alba, a Venezue­lan lawyer and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ex­pert. “The regime will take as much ad­van­tage of the juicy dec­la­ra­tions as it can.”

As re­cently as Thurs­day, Maduro — the anointed suc­ces­sor of left­ist fire­brand Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013 — said he wanted to have “re­spect­ful” re­la­tions with the United States.

Af­ter Trump’s re­marks on Fri­day, the White House press sec­re­tary re­leased a state­ment say­ing the pres­i­dent had re­jected a re­quest from Maduro for a phone call. “Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democ­racy is re­stored in that coun­try,” the state­ment read.

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