In response to comments from President Donald Trump that he wouldn't "rule out" a "military option" against Venezuela—currently embroiled in domestic political conflict as neoliberal forces challenge the socialist-led government of President Nicholas Maduro—the nation's top officials characterized Trump's remarks as "madness" coming from the "imperial" and "extremist elite that rules the United States."
In remarks to reporters made from his estate in Bedminster, New Jersey on Friday Trump said, "We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary." Trump bragged that the U.S. has "troops all over the world," but said that Venezuela was "not very far away."
Later, it emerged that Trump—who has hosted or greeted with smiles human rights offenders like Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi—had refused to take a call from Maduro.
In response, Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino denounced the behavior and comments of the U.S. president.
"It is an act of madness. It is an act of supreme extremism. There is an extremist elite that rules the United States," he said in televised remarks.
Separately, the nation's Communication Minister Ernesto Villegas called Trump's threat of military action "an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty." In a tweet, Villegas announced he had summoned the nation's diplomats for a meeting on Saturday and promised to release a later "communiqué addressing the imperial threat to Venezuela" represented by the U.S. government.
No stranger to U.S. meddling in its internal affairs, Venezuela was the victim of a coup in 2002 that had the explicit backing and support of U.S. officials and neoconservative allies.
Weirdly, Latin America is really sensitive to any hint of US interference, especially military intervention, into their internal affairs https://t.co/QsCAvuPhOn
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 12, 2017
Offering perpsective on the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, Mark Weisbrot, economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, appeared on BBC earlier this week amidst increasingly violent street protests and in the wake of new threats from right-wing forces calling for—and actually attempting—a militant rebellion against Maduro's existing democratically-elected government. In his comments, Weisbrot calls it deeply problematic that the Trump administration has openly called for "regime change" in Venezuela, especially given the historic and destructive role of U.S. imperialism in Latin America.