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The Latest: White House rejects Maduro phone call

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the United States and Venezuela (all times EDT):

9:45 p.m.

The White House says it has rejected a request from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to speak by phone with President Donald Trump.

A statement released late Friday by the White House press secretary says, "Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country."

Trump said earlier Friday that he wouldn't rule out military action against Venezuela in response to the country's descent into political chaos following Maduro's power grab.

In rejecting Maduro's request to talk, The White House says: "Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela's constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela's great people. ... Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship."

___

9 p.m.

Venezuela's Defense Minister is calling President Donald Trump's talk of a military intervention an act of "craziness" and "supreme extremism."

Gen. Vladimir Padrino says, "With this extremist elite that's in charge in the U.S., who knows what will happen to the world?" Padrino is a close ally of President Nicolas Maduro.

His remarks are the first by a high-level Venezuelan official and come ahead of an expected statement by Maduro's government.

___

7 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is heading to Latin America Sunday amid deepening alarm over Venezuela's descent into political chaos and threats of a military response by President Donald Trump.

Pence's six-day, four-country tour will include stops in Cartagena, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; and Panama City.

The vice president is expected to meet with each country's leaders, deliver a major speech on U.S.-Latin American relations and tour the newly-expanded Panama Canal.

He's also expected to share concerns about the collapse of democracy in Venezuela and discuss trade and economic relations.

The Trump administration has issued a series of sanctions against more than two dozen current and former Venezuelan officials, including President Nicolas Maduro.

Trump said Friday that he wouldn't rule out a "military option" in response to the crisis.

___

6:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump's threat of a "military option" in Venezuela seems to contradict the advice of his top national security adviser.

Gen. H.R. McMaster said last week he didn't want to give President Nicolas Maduro any ammunition to blame the "Yankees" for the "tragedy" that has befallen the oil-rich nation.

McMaster said in an interview that aired on MSNBC, "You've seen Maduro have some lame attempts to try to do that already."

McMaster said it was important for the U.S. and its neighbors to speak with a single voice in defense of Venezuela's democracy.

The general said: "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."

___

6:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he's considering possible military action against Venezuela in response to President Nicolas Maduro's power grab.

Trump tells reporters at his New Jersey golf course Friday that he's "not going to rule out" a military option."

He adds that it's "certainly something that we could pursue."

Trump has been blasting Maduro's moves to consolidate power, describing him as a "dictator."

The Trump administration has issued a series of sanctions against Maduro and more than two dozen current and former Venezuelan officials.

But a military intervention would be an extraordinary escalation in response.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington
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