In the aftermath of a faltering opposition uprising in Venezuela, the Trump administration is looking at imposing new individual sanctions against the Maduro government and also scrambling for ideas that can have a greater impact on the ground, including military options.
The White House is calling for relevant departments to produce more options for the president to consider on Venezuela. The National Security Council is pushing the Defense Department for military ideas and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is seeking ways to entice Russia to pull away from Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro.
Current and former officials recognize there are not many more options other than military action or some type of internal revolt.
“It’s more sanctions, military or straight up Venezuela flipping,” said a senior administration official on condition of anonymity. “And that’s a problem. All they have to do is delay, delay, delay and they’re still in power.”
Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Navy Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, met Friday morning and discussed different options to increase pressure on the Maduro government, including military participation.
“These discussions really are more so that just as things happen, it’s convenient that we’re all here in the same time zone, and almost the same zip code, so we can just converge, update everybody on that, we’ll probably get together in a few more days,” Shanahan told reporters Friday.
In Venezuela, standing in front of armed military officers, Juan Guaidó, who the United States considers the legitimate president of Venezuela, on Tuesday called for Venezuelans to join him for the “final phase” of an effort to take control of the Miraflores presidential palace. But Guaidó was unable to rally enough support from the Venezuelan military and after days of violence in street protests, Maduro has held control of the military and government offices.
Maduro demonstrated his power by appearing publicly Thursday flanked by soldiers.
“Something good came from evil, which is loyalty in full combat,” he told troops during an event broadcast on state television. “The troops were not afraid to say ‘no’ to the traitors, ‘no’ to the participants of an attempted coup.”
Loyalty is a value that you either have or you don’t … I know you will not fail the homeland,” Maduro told troops.