Intensifying speculation that the Trump administration is serious about its repeated threats of military action against Venezuela if President Nicolas Maduro does not hand over power to a hand-picked member of the nation's opposition coalition, scrawlings on a notebook held by US National Security Advisor John Bolton at a press conference Monday afternoon contained the words: "5,000 troops to Colombia."
The press conference was held to announce new sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company, including the freezing of billions of dollars in assets, but also came with a fresh warning from Bolton that Trump is serious when he says that "all option are on the table" for the US to get its way in Venezuela.
The first line of Bolton's note reads: "Afghanistan->welcome the talks;" a reference to a new framework for peace talks between the US, the Afghan government, and the Taliban reported widely on Monday. While US troops withdrawals are assumed to be part of that, the obvious speculation included the idea that less troops in Afghanistan would allow for redeployment to Latin America. Colombia, a close US ally in the region that shares a large border with Venezuela, has also supported the call for Maduro's ouster.
A closer look:
In response to being shown the photo by Reuters journalist, a White House spokesperson stated: "As the president has said, all options are on the table."
According to CBS News:
Colombia's foreign minister says his government doesn't know why US national security adviser John Bolton had "5,000 troops to Colombia" written on a notepad he held during a news conference announcing new Venezuela sanctions.
In a brief address Monday evening, Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said Colombia does not know the "importance and reason" for Bolton's note. He added that Colombia will continue "acting politically and diplomatically" so that democratic order is restored in Venezuela and new elections are held.
Critical observers noted that what appeared to many like an amateurish or clumsy mistake by Bolton, gives the veteran neoconservative and government operative too little credit:
Trump's neoconservative, pathologically pro-war Nat Sec Adviser John Bolton holding out a notepad with "5,000 troops to Colombia" on it, for journalists to easily take a photo of, is likely not an accident.
This is a threat to Venezuela, without him having to saying it directly. pic.twitter.com/qnut1LzNmm
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 28, 2019
Meanwhile, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who is also running as a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, said Monday night that Bolton has now made clear that the US actions against Venezuela—just like in Iraq and elsewhere—is really about the country's oil reserves. "It’s about the oil … again," she said on Twitter.
It’s about the oil … again.
Bolton just exposed real motive for intervention in Venezuela: "We're in conversation with major American companies now...It would make a difference if we could have American companies produce the oil in Venezuela. We both have a lot at stake here."
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) January 29, 2019
Here we go again. Iraq 16 years later is still unstable and Trump is contemplating invading Venezuela for its oil!!! https://t.co/Zo5Xfa4GUP
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) January 29, 2019
In a television appearance, Bolton made the case for seizing Venezuela's oil wealth in his own words:
John Bolton states regime change in Venezuela is about the country’s oil. “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” pic.twitter.com/sIHWYk3grq
— Iraqi Christian HRC (@iraqschristians) January 29, 2019