President Donald Trump's talk of a "military option" in Venezuela risks alienating Latin American nations that overcame their reluctance to work with the Republican leader and had adopted a common, confrontational approach aimed at isolating President Nicolas Maduro's embattled government.
Speaking to Journalists during an impromptu question and answer press conference, President Trump said that the people of Venezuela are suffering, and some are dying.
He said they were particularly menacing given President Nicolas Maduro's renewed call this week for closer ties and request for a meeting with Trump at the U.N. General Assembly next month. "President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country", the White House responded in a statement.
"We have many options for Venezuela, and by the way I'm not going to rule out a military option", Trump told reporters yesterday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is vacationing.
On Friday Peru expelled Venezuela's ambassador after Caracas sent an "unacceptable" response to regional condemnation of its new constituent assembly.
Countries from the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, ALBA, have reiterated their support for the Venezuelan government at the "Sixth Extraordinary Meeting of the Political Council" in Caracas. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro on August 7 on his public television show Sundays with Maduro welcomed this intention to participate and again repeated his call for dialogue and reconciliation via the electoral route.
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The unexpected warning shocked many Venezuelans.
The threat of military intervention would also seem to contradict the advice of Trump's top national security adviser.
"You've seen Maduro have some lame attempts to try to do that already", McMaster said in an interview that aired last Saturday on MSNBC. On Friday morning, Trump said "military solutions are now in place" should "North Korea act unwisely".
In a controversial election boycotted by the Opposition, a new constituent assembly was elected to draw up a new constitution that has the potential to fundamentally change the rules in favor of Maduro.
Other Latin American countries also condemned Mr Trump's comments, including Mexico, Colombia and Peru, which said Mr Trump's threat was against United Nations principles.
Not even the frustration over Trump's decision to partially roll back Obama's opening to Cuba - a diplomatic thaw that was applauded across the region's political spectrum - or his constant talk of building a border wall to keep out immigrants got in the way of presenting a united front toward Maduro.