Amid heightened tensions and nuclear threats with North Korea, President Donald Trump on Friday told reporters that a “military option” is not off the table to solve the ongoing crisis in Venezuela.
Trump was asked about his stance on the issue, as he’s consistently implemented and called for increased sanctions against the country and its President Nicolas Maduro.
“I’m not going to rule out a military option, we have many options for Venezuela,” Trump said, referring to the current situation in the country as being “a mess.”
“We have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away, and Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they’re dying,” Trump said. “We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option, if necessary.”
Watch the video of Trump addressing the reporters below:
The Pentagon reportedly hasn’t yet received any military orders from the Trump administration on Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government on July 30 held an election that Trump administration labeled a “sham.” The ruling socialist party won the election, and as many as 14 people died in protests leading up to the vote, opposition leader Henrique Capriles said. The prosecutor’s office confirmed at least six people were killed by gunfire, The Guardian reported.
Many citizens decided to skip voting in the election, which many saw as being Maduro’s attempt to turn the country into a complete dictatorship.
Trump has criticized Maduro many times throughout the past month, saying in a July 17 statement that the leader “dreams of becoming a dictator,” adding that “the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”
The U.S. Department of State said in a statement that it stands by the citizens of Venezuela “and their constitutional representatives, in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”
“We will continue to take strong and swift actions against the architects of authoritarianism in Venezuela, including those who participate in the national constituent assembly as a result of today’s flawed election,” the statement continued.
The U.S. responded to the election by imposing financial sanctions on Maduro.
“By sanctioning Maduro, the United States makes clear our opposition to the policies of his regime and our support for the people of Venezuela who seek to return their country to a full and prosperous democracy,” treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said July 31.
The election came after a socioeconomic crisis in the country that started around 2012 when its economy began crumbling and inflation, poverty and food shortages started to skyrocket.
Maduro was elected in 2013 following the death of Hugo Chavez. With a struggling country, Maduro said capitalism was to blame for the issues, and by 2014, Venezuela was in economic recession. In 2015, Venezuala’s inflation rate reached its highest point ever, and citizens continued to feel the effects of it.
Food shortages in products like milk, meats, chicken, coffee, rice and oil continued, and many Venezuelans have been forced to search for food, wait in lines for hours and, in some instances, eat wild fruit or garbage.