Saturday 24 March 2018

Venezuela's anger over Trump threat

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro. Photo: Reuters

Hannah Strange and Mariana Zuniga

The Venezuelan government has warned it will defend itself against any intervention by the "extremist" United States after President Donald Trump raised the prospect of a "military option" in the chaos-ridden South American oil state.

Mr Trump said the use of force "was certainly something we could pursue" in Venezuela, which he described as a "dangerous mess".

He added: "The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary."

His comments drew a furious response in Venezuela, where General Padrino Lopez, the defence minister, vowed the army would fight against any foreign intervention.

"As a soldier, along with the armed forces, we are in the first line to defend the interests and the sovereignty of our beloved Venezuela," he said, and described the threat as "an act of madness, of supreme extremism".

The US has already imposed sanctions on senior government figures, including President Nicolas Maduro, in response to the controversial election of a constituent assembly empowered to rewrite the constitution.

Despite claims of electoral fraud, the assembly has begun to rule over the heads of the opposition-controlled parliament, prompting claims from powers in the region and beyond that Venezuela has stepped into dictatorship.

Amid violence that has left more than 100 dead, many fear the country is on the brink of a full-blown civil conflict. Mr Trump's threat of military action, after he declined to take a telephone call from Mr Maduro, would represent a serious escalation.

It sent shockwaves through the region yesterday, even prompting detractors who had been clamouring for change to spring to its defence.

"In Latin America we don't want your war," said Vicente Fox, the former Mexican president banned from Venezuela over comments interpreted as encouraging regime change.

"Only an imbecile would wage war on his neighbour's land. Violence is not the answer," he tweeted at the US president.


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