Donald Trump has said sending troops to crisis-hit Venezuela is “an option” as western nations increase pressure on socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to hand power over to self-proclaimed president Juan Guaido.
In an astonishing interview, the US president also revealed he had turned down a request to meet Maduro, whose tenure as president has seen the country fall into economic turmoil amid a growing humanitarian crisis.
Asked if he might dispatch American troops there, Mr Trump said: “Certainly it’s something that’s on the – it’s an option.”
Excerpts from the interview – carried out by CBS’s Face The Nation show – were released as thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest against Mr Maduro’s regime, which has been criticised for destroying the economy and disappearing opponents.
When pressed over whether the two leaders might talk, Mr Trump answered: “Well he requested a meeting and I’ve turned it down because we’re very far along in the process.”
He added: “I would say this. I decided at the time, ‘no’ because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country.
“That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world.
“And now you look at the poverty and you look at the anguish and you look at the crime and you look at all of the things happening.
“So, I think the process is playing out – very very big tremendous protests.”
The US and EU, along with several South American countries, have already recognised the leadership of Juan Guaido, the president of the National Assembly of Venezuela.
The 35-year-old has promised to end the financial crisis in what was once South America’s richest country, and restore democracy.
He made his challenge to Mr Maduro last month after the latter was sworn in for a second six-year term in office following widely disputed elections in 2018.
On Saturday, a Venezuelan air force general defected from the government and urged others to do the same.
The move has been called significant because the armed forces – who, for now, remain loyal to Mr Maduro – are the key to holding power.
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