Venezuela’s government has rejected President Donald Trump’s talk of a potential “military option” to resolve the country’s political crisis.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, during a meeting with foreign diplomats —  including the U.S. top diplomat in Venezuela, Lee McClenny — called Trump’s talk the most egregious act of belligerence against Venezuela in a century, and said it was a threat to Latin America’s stability.

Speaking to reporters Friday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, Trump bemoaned Venezuela’s growing humanitarian crisis and declared that all options remain on the table — including a potential military intervention.

“We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option,” volunteered Trump, adding, “A military operation is certainly something that we could pursue.”

Calling Trump the “boss of the empire,” Arreaza accused Washington of seeking to destabilize and divide Latin America and the Caribbean.

He called on “good-minded” Venezuelans to put aside their political differences and unite in rejecting Trump’s comments.

Almost since President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013, he has been warning of U.S. military designs on Venezuela, home to the world’s largest oil reserves, according to The Associated Press. Maduro also has directed his barbs at Trump, describing him as a crass imperial magnate and accusing him of backing a failed attack on a military base.

Trump’s dramatic escalation in rhetoric seemed to upend carefully crafted U.S. policy that has stressed working with regional partners to increase pressure on Maduro, who has been consolidating power, plunging the country into chaos. It also contradicted high-level administration officials, including Trump’s own national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, who had warned that any perception of U.S. intervention would stir decades’ old resentments and play into Maduro’s hands.

The White House also denied that the president’s comments would make Vice President Mike Pence’s task more difficult when he arrives Sunday in Cartagena, Colombia, on Venezuela’s doorstep.

“The president is sending the vice president to South and Central America to deliver a very clear message both to our partners in the region and to the Maduro regime. The president and the vice president have discussed the trip in depth and are totally aligned on the president’s message to Venezuela and Latin America overall,” said Pence’s spokesman, Jarrod Agen.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 



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