President Trump on Friday said he isn’t ruling out military options in Venezuela, where civil unrest over a dire economic situation has devolved into violence and a constitutional crisis.
“We have many options for Venezuela,” Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in New Jersey, alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.
“And by the way I am not going to rule out a military option,” Mr. Trump said. “We have many options.”
The president, who would not say whether American troops would be involved in such an operation, added, “Venezuela is not very far away.”
The president’s floating of a U.S. invasion in Venezuela, in response to a question of whether he would support regime change in that Latin American nation, quickly escalated the range of options for addressing the crisis in that country. Venezuela is in the midst of a political and socioeconomic crisis that includes rampant crime, exorbitant prices for basic necessities and a lack of jobs.
Mr. Trump announced he will be returning to Washington briefly on Monday, when he will give his first major solo press conference since February 16. It’s unclear what he will be addressing, or why he has decided to hold a press conference now.
Venezuela’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, has said he wants to meet Mr. Trump, as the U.S. weighs slapping economic sanctions on his socialist administration. Mr. Trump has already slapped sanctions on eight of Maduro’s allies, accusing them of violating human rights and democratic norms. Vice President Mike Pence will travel to nearby Columbia on Sunday to discuss how to pressure Maduro.
The Venezuela comments came as Mr. Trump is escalating his remarks on North Korea, which he says will be met with “fire and fury” or worse if it dares to threaten the U.S.