In a strange parallel with his tactics in dealing with North Korea, President Donald Trump on Friday threatened military action in Venezuela, intervening in the country’s political crisis, Reuters reports.
Of course, unlike North Korea, which has been test firing ballistic missiles, Venezuela in no way poses a threat to the United States.
Still, as with North Korea (to which Trump issued the “locked and loaded” threat on the same day) the president jumped from sanctions to military threats when on Friday he said that the United States has “many options for Venezuela, including a military option, if necessary.”
He also refused to take a call from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
In a rapid response to Trump, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, shot down any notion of a military response at this time:
No. Congress obviously isn’t authorizing war in Venezuela. Nicolas Maduro is a horrible human being, but Congress doesn’t vote to spill Nebraskans’ blood based on who the Executive lashes out at today.
Facing a major economic downturn, the country has been embroiled in national unrest between Maduro, who is moving to rework the country’s constitution to consolidate his power — and his opposition, which has been mounting protests against Maduro for nearly a year.
The violence sweeping through the streets has resulted in over 100 deaths and mass arrests and has prompted international outcry, urging Maduro to restore rule of law and democracy to the oil-rich country.
The U.S. hard-line stance against Venezuela is not new. In a move deemed a strategic mistake by analysts, former President Barack Obama declared Venezuela a “national security threat” and issued sanctions against several officials.
Reuters earlier this year reported that “Some [U.S] anti-aircraft missiles had been placed along the country’s coast,” in preparation for an eventual showdown.
President Trump’s threat, however, is a major escalation and seen as an “act of craziness” by Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino.
Mark Feierstein, one of Obama’s senior aides on Venezuela, told Reuters that Trump’s threat will likely backfire.
“Maduro must be thrilled right now,” said Feierstein. “It’s hard to imagine a more damaging thing for Trump to say.”