White House: U.S. ‘Stands with the People of Venezuela’
Trump rejects increasingly authoritarian President Maduro's request to talk, floats regime change
President Donald Trump refused to grant Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s request for a phone call Friday and urged citizens to continue to resist the “continued oppression by the Maduro regime.”
Venezuela has been the scene of many anti-government protests since February 2014 — less than a year after Maduro became president and began to undermine the nation’s democratic institutions. Trump weighed in on the ongoing Venezuelan crisis Friday when he refused to “rule out a military option.” The Trump administration previously slapped sanctions on Venezuela following the country’s July 30 vote, which allowed Maduro to stack the 545-member Constituent Assembly with his loyal supporters.
"Today, Nicolas Maduro requested a phone call with President Donald J. Trump," the office of the White House press secretary said in a statement Friday. "Since the start of this Administration, President Trump has asked that Maduro respect Venezuela's constitution, hold free and fair elections, release political prisoners, cease all human rights violations, and stop oppressing Venezuela's great people."
"The Maduro regime has refused to heed this call, which has been echoed around the region and the world. Instead Maduro has chosen the path of dictatorship," the statement continued. "The United States stands with the people of Venezuela in the face of their continued oppression by the Maduro regime. President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country."
Trump made waves Friday when he told reporters that he was mulling over the idea of military intervention in Venezuela, as well as other options to pressure Maduro's regime.
"We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option," Trump had said, noting that Venezuela is "our neighbor." "You know, we are all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary."
More than 120 people have died during the protests that wracked Venezuelan cities since April alone, and the United Nations' human rights office decried the regime's oppression and use of excessive force. Trump addressed the regime's violations earlier in August, saying in a statement that the U.S. "condemns the actions of the Maduro dictatorship," including regime's decision to imprison political opponents illegally.
But Trump's suggestion of using force to oppose and contain Venezuela's oppressive regime and human rights violations was met with concern from his top advisers, including National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who downplayed the suggestion to MSNBC in early August.
"No. I don't think so," McMaster said of the possibility that the U.S. could intervene in Venezuela directly. "What's really required is for everyone to have one voice about the need to protect the rights and the safety of the Venezuelan people."
Maduro revamped his criticism of Trump as the leader of an "imperial power" Thursday during a speech before the Constituent Assembly.
"With Donald Trump, a dangerous class of lobbyists, multimillionaires and extreme right-wingers reached the presidency, capturing all of the positions of power in the government," Maduro said. "Today, they are threatening world peace."
"If he is so interested in Venezuela, here I am," Maduro added. "Mr. Donald Trump, here is my hand."
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Andrés E. Azpúrua)