The United States is prepared to take military action in Venezuela, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said during a television interview today.
Pompeo told the Fox Business channel: “Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do.”
His comments come the day after Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido joined with dozens of National Guard members in his latest attempt to topple President Nicolas Maduro, sparking violent protests.
Protesters yesterday clashed with the armed forces, who showed little signs of defecting from Maduro to the opposition. Maduro yesterday evening claimed troops loyal to him had defeated a Western imperialist plot and the “coup-mongering far right”.
The US secretary of state yesterday told television interviewers that Maduro was prepared to leave the country on Tuesday morning following Guaido’s calls for protests, but Russian intervention caused the president to stay.
Pompeo told CNN: “They had an airplane on the tarmac. He was ready to leave this morning, as we understand it. Russians indicated he should stay.”
Later in the day, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, told CNN that the claim was not true.
The violent protests came three months after Guaido, the president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution to declare himself president, arguing that the elections that returned Maduro in May 2018 were illegitimate.
Guaido and his many supporters in the National Assembly have gained the backing of the US and most Western countries including the UK, but Maduro has kept the support of Russia and China and, crucially, the armed forces.
Under Maduro the Venezuelan economy has collapsed, with living standards plummeting amid food, water and medicine shortages compounded by hyperinflation. Millions have fled while the president has also cracked down on dissent.