CARACAS/LIMA: After months of attacking Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Latin America came out strongly against US threats of military action against the country, reported Reuters.
US President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday brought Maduro some respite in the region, just as Venezuela was on verge of becoming a pariah over its recent installation of a legislative superbody, widely condemned as a ‘power grab’ by the ruling Socialists.
Following Trump’s assertion that military intervention in Venezuela was an option, Maduro’s critics are caught between backing the idea of a foreign invasion of Venezuela or supporting a president they call a ‘dictator’.
The sudden escalation of Washington’s response to Venezuela’s crisis preceded US Vice-President Mike Pence’s trip to the region beginning Sunday. He is set to visit Colombia, Argentina, Chile, and Panama.
Trump did not specify what type of options he had in mind.
Venezuelan Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino on Friday disparaged Trump’s warning as ‘craziness’ and Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said on Saturday Venezuela rejected ‘hostile’ threats, calling on Latin America to unite against Washington.
“We want to express gratitude for all the expressions of solidarity and rejection of the use of force from governments around the world, including Latin America,” said Arreaza, in a short speech on Saturday.
Peru expelled Venezuela’s ambassador in Lima on Friday, but that did not stop it from criticising Trump’s threat.
“All foreign or domestic threats to resort to force undermine the goal of reinstating democratic governance in Venezuela, as well as the principles enshrined in the UN charter,” said Peru’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Luna.
Peru under President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski had taken the toughest stance yet toward Venezuela’s socialist government, and has openly called Maduro a ‘dictator’.
The new legislative superbody took new action on Saturday on the country’s election timetable. It unanimously passed a resolution to move the country’s December 10 governors’ election up to October.
Assembly members said the decision was made in part because the election had been delayed due to ‘opposition-led violence’. More than 120 people have died in unrest and anti-government protests since April.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) was asked by the assembly to set the exact date for the governors’ election.
The ruling Socialist Party in Venezuela has for years accused the United States of plotting an invasion as a way of controlling its oil reserves – the world’s largest – through a military intervention similar to the Iraq war.
Previous US administrations had brushed this off as politicized rhetoric meant to distract from what they termed Venezuela’s domestic problems.
Under former President Barack Obama, the State Department in 2015 made quiet diplomatic overtures that led to several high-level meetings. The effort ultimately foundered as Maduro hardened his stance against opposition critics.
Venezuelan Information Minister Vladimir Villegas on Saturday tweeted a picture of the Statue of Liberty holding a machine gun instead of a torch, and a link to an article describing, ‘A Chronology of US ‘Military Options’ in Latam and the Caribbean’.