President Nicolas Maduro told Venezuela’s troops Wednesday to be on alert following reports that U.S. President Donald Trump wanted to invade the South American state.
“A military intervention on the part of the U.S. empire will never be a solution to Venezuela’s problems,” Maduro said.
“You cannot lower your guard for even a second, because we will defend the greatest right our homeland has had in all of its history, which is to live in peace," he told troops during a military ceremony in Bogota.
Maduro’s comments came after it was reported by AP that Trump pushed in 2017 for a U.S. military intervention against the beleaguered yet oil-rich nation.
On August 10, 2017, in an Oval Office meeting to discuss sanctions against Venezuela, Trump stunned top officials by asking why the U.S. could not simply invade Venezuela and remove Maduro from office, because of the threat the country’s political and economic turmoil posed to the region.
Officials — which included then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — were reportedly staggered by the suggestion and took turns trying to talk Trump down — with limited success.
The following day a stern-faced Tillerson stood next to the president as he told reporters: “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”
At the time, Trump’s comments were dismissed as bluster from the former reality-TV star, but the fresh revelations suggest the president was serious.
Trump also hawked the idea of military intervention to Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos during a meeting soon after, but the suggestion was again dismissed.
A month later, on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump brought up the prospect at a meeting with Santos and the leaders from three other Latin American allies — despite his staff specifically telling him not to mention it.
All four leaders said they were sure they didn’t want military intervention in Venezuela.
Maduro responded Wednesday, calling it further evidence that the U.S. had designs on Venezuela and, in particular, its huge oil reserves.
Maduro also noted that Trump’s comments came in the wake of Venezuelan opposition leaders visiting the White House, likely a reference to Trump’s February meeting with Lilian Tintori, wife of Leopoldo López, the country's most prominent political prisoner.
“Is this a coincidence? No, it is not a coincidence,” Maduro said.
Cover image: Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president, gestures while speaking during a campaign rally in Charallave, Miranda state, Venezuela, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. (Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images)