The Venezuelan government has warned it will defend itself against any intervention by the “extremist” United States after President Donald Trump raised the prospect of a “military option” in the chaos-ridden South American oil state.
Mr Trump told reporters on Friday that the use of force “was certainly something we could pursue” in Venezuela, which he described as a “dangerous mess”.
“The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” Mr Trump said.
His comments drew a furious response in Venezuela, where General Padrino Lopez, the defence minister, vowed that the army would fight against any foreign intervention.
“As a soldier, along with the armed forces, we are in the first line to defend the interests and the sovereignty of our beloved Venezuela,” he said, describing the threat as “an act of madness, of supreme extremism”.
Jorge Arreaza, the foreign minister, called on all Venezuelans to unite against the “insolent foreign aggression”.
“The reckless threats of President Donald Trump aim to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict which would permanently alter the stability, the peace and the security of our region,” he said.
The US has already imposed sanctions on senior government figures, including President Nicolas Maduro himself, in response to the controversial election of a constituent assembly (ANC) empowered to rewrite the constitution in favour of the revolutionary government.
Despite widespread claims of electoral fraud, the powerful assembly has begun to rule over the heads of the opposition-controlled parliament, prompting cries from powers in the region and beyond that Venezuela has stepped into dictatorship.
Amid violence that has left more than 100 dead and claims of systematic abuses by security forces, many fear the country is on the brink of a full-blown civil conflict.