WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said Thursday he was considering a blockade or quarantine of Venezuela to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to step down. Asked by reporters whether he was considering the measure, given the amount of involvement China and Iran have in Venezuela, Trump answered “Yes, I am” but did not provide specifics on timing or how such an action would be imposed.
The Trump administration has been focusing on economic and diplomatic pressure against Maduro while avoiding any military action. Trump made the remarks while departing the White House for a campaign rally. Venezuela has been rocked by political unrest since Jan. 10, when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.
Tensions climbed on Jan. 23 when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, but Maduro has so far refused calls to step down. He has accused the US of orchestrating a coup against his government, saying he is open to dialogue with the opposition. The US has led an international campaign to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Maduro, including sanctioning the country’s state-owned oil company and a joint venture with its Nicaraguan counterpart.
Russia, China and Iran have thrown their weight behind Maduro, as has Turkey. Spain, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and Denmark joined the US, Canada and several Latin American countries in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim leader. (AA)