clear
Wednesday October 18th, 2017 1:56AM

Trump says he won't rule out military response to Venezuela

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that he wouldn't rule out military action against Venezuela in response to the country's descent into political chaos following President Nicolas Maduro's power grab.

Speaking to reporters at his Bedminster, New Jersey, 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 volunteered, adding, "A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue."

Trump's comment mark a serious 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 upcoming trip to the region later this week.

Venezuela's defense minister called Trump's talk of a military intervention an act of "craziness" and "supreme extremism."

Gen. Vladimir Padrino, a close ally of Maduro, 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 comments are sure to focus new attention on Pence's upcoming six-day tour of the region, which will include stops in Cartagena, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Panama City. Pence is set to arrive in Colombia on Sunday and is expected to meet with each of the countries' leaders, deliver a major speech on U.S.-Latin American relations and tour the newly-expanded Panama canal.

The trip was already sure to be dominated by discussion of Venezuela, with Pence expected to call on the leaders to continue to pressure the Maduro government and encourage others in the region to do the same.

But Trump's comments are likely to upend the conversations, with leaders potentially pressing Pence for reassurance that Trump won't go through with his military threat.

"The Vice President's trip will highlight the divide between the past and present of Latin America," said Jarrod Agen, a Pence spokesman, in a statement sent before Trump's comments. "Venezuela represents the past, with the failed path of tyranny and oppression, but Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama represent the future of freedom, opportunity and prosperity."

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, General 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.

But most Venezuelans tended to shrug the accusations off as diversionary tactics of an unpopular leader. One website even emerged to keep track of the multiple conspiracy theories spread on state media and Maduro's frequent harangues against Washington.

But Trump's comments that he won't rule out a "military option" in Venezuela may yet validate those claims in the eyes of some government supporters.

In eastern Caracas, the center of months of deadly anti-government protests, residents reacted with a mix of disbelief and frustration with Trump's remarks, which they fear will embolden the weakened Maduro and distract attention from his abuses.

"Of course we don't support violence, but look at all the violence we're already suffering," said Irali Medina, an office administrator, pointing to the spot where a university student was killed recently by a tear gas canister fired by national guardsmen controlling protesters.

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.

__

Goodman reported from Caracas, Venezuela. Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tillerson says diplomats in Havana suffered 'health attacks'
The U.S. secretary of state says American diplomats in Havana have been the victims of "health attacks" that left them with hearing loss _ the most definitive U.S. statement yet on mysterious incidents that have puzzled observers of U.S.-Cuba relations
8:45PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Trump says he won't rule out military response to Venezuela
President Donald Trump says he won't rule out possible military action against Venezuela in response to President Nicolas Maduro's power grab
8:43PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Judge tosses DJ's suit against Taylor Swift in groping trial
A judge has thrown out a Denver radio host's case against Taylor Swift in their dueling lawsuits over whether he groped her during a backstage meet-and-greet and whether she and her team ruined his career
8:36PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump: If North Korea attacks US, it 'will regret it fast'
President Donald Trump says the North Korean leader "will regret it fast" if he acts against a U.S. ally or territory
8:13PM ( 39 minutes ago )
The Latest: Swift, her team happy about judge's ruling
After U.S. District Judge William Martinez's ruling, Taylor Swift and her team walked up to one another and hugged, smiled and whispered
8:11PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Judge in groping case tosses DJ's suit against Taylor Swift
A judge has thrown out a Denver radio host's case against Taylor Swift in their dueling lawsuits over whether he groped her during a backstage meet-and-greet and whether she and her team ruined his career
8:03PM ( 49 minutes ago )
AP National News
Billionaire suggests black senator worse than Ku Klux Klan
A billionaire hedge fund executive has apologized for an online post saying a black New York state senator has done "more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood."
5:45PM ( 3 hours ago )
Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott suspended 6 games in domestic case
Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has been suspended for six games after an NFL investigation of his domestic violence case out of Ohio
5:44PM ( 3 hours ago )
Police: Hair stylist slain in Chicago stabbed over 40 times
Chicago police say a hair stylist found dead in the apartment of a former Northwestern University professor had been stabbed more than 40 times
5:29PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Tillerson says diplomats in Havana suffered 'health attacks'
The U.S. secretary of state says American diplomats in Havana have been the victims of "health attacks" that left them with hearing loss _ the most definitive U.S. statement yet on mysterious incidents that have puzzled observers of U.S.-Cuba relations
8:45PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Judge tosses DJ's suit against Taylor Swift in groping trial
A judge has thrown out a Denver radio host's case against Taylor Swift in their dueling lawsuits over whether he groped her during a backstage meet-and-greet and whether she and her team ruined his career
8:36PM ( 16 minutes ago )
The Latest: PGA Championship turns into a track meet
The Latest: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson have spent the last two holes running to their ball after striking it in an effort to get the second round in before dark.
8:28PM ( 23 minutes ago )
Judge sentences hit man for Chicago gang to life in prison
A federal judge has sentenced a hit man with a Chicago street gang to life in prison in one of the city's largest gang cases in years
8:21PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Trump says he's considering military response to Venezuela
President Donald Trump says he's considering possible military action against Venezuela in response to President Nicolas Maduro's power grab
8:14PM ( 37 minutes ago )