As tensions between the United States and North Korea reach never-before-seen levels, President Donald Trump has pivoted his attention toward the crisis facing Venezuela, which has been gripped by widespread poverty and unrest under the socialist dictatorship of NicolĂˇs Maduro.
â€śVenezuela is a mess, it is a very dangerous mess, and a very sad situation,â€ť Trump told reporters during a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Friday. â€śWe have many options for Venezuela, Iâ€™m not ruling out military options.â€ť
On Thursday, Maduro ordered his foreign minister to build a diplomatic bridge with Washington, hoping to schedule â€śin personâ€ť talks with Trump in September. Maduro hopes to visit New York for the United Nations General Assembly meeting that month, but current U.S. Treasury sanctions prohibit from entering the United States for any reason.
Trumpâ€™s remarks came shortly after a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
â€śThis is our neighbor,â€ť Trump said. â€śVenezuela is not far away. The people are suffering and they are dying, we have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.â€ť When asked for further details, Trump simply replied: â€śWe donâ€™t talk about it.â€ť
Venezulan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino was incredulous about Trumpâ€™s military threats, which he labeled â€śan act of craziness.â€ť
But according to the White House, Maduro attempted to arrange a phone call with Trump on Friday, potentially signaling that his regime is ready to come to the table to prevent hostilities. The White House refused to take his call until democracy was restored to Venezuela.
Venezuela has long accused the United States of planning an impending military invasion, but the Pentagon waved away the rumors as â€śbaseless,â€ť noting that the U.S. military will only act to protect U.S. citizens and Americaâ€™s national interests.