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Latin American leaders alienated by Trump’s ‘military option’ on Venezuela

LATIN AMERICAN leaders have roundly condemned US President Donald Trump’s threat of a “military option” against Venezuela.

At a press conference on Friday Mr Trump labelled his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro a “dictator.”

He said: “The people are suffering and they are dying.

“We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary.”

At least 124 people have died in four months of opposition regime-change riots since the start of April, fuelled by chronic shortages of food, medicine and other goods the government blames on a US-directed economic war.

Six died on July 30 during elections to the new assembly to amend the constitution — over which Washington threatened Caracas with sanctions. One death has been reported since then.

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said Mr Trump’s “warmongering declarations” were part of the “systematic US aggressions against Venezuela.”

Venezuela’s allies, including Bolivia and Ecuador, issued solidarity messages.

Bolivian President Evo Morales slammed the “deafening silence” from Venezuela’s Democratic Unity Roundtable (Mud) opposition, while Ecuador reminded the world that Latin America and the Caribbean nations had declared the region a “zone of peace.”

Mr Trump’s comments were the first explicit threat of military action against Venezuela by a US president since Mr Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. But former president George W Bush supported opposition parties behind the failed 2002 coup against Mr Chavez, while his successor Barack Obama decreed Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security and foreign policy in 2015.

Mr Obama’s former national security adviser on Latin America Mark Feierstein accused Mr Trump of playing into Mr Maduro’s hands.

“For years he’s been saying that the US is preparing an invasion, and everyone laughed. But now the claim has been validated. It’s hard to imagine a more damaging thing for Trump to say.”

On Friday Miami-based ex-army captain Juan Caguaripano, who led a 20-man raid on an army base in Carabobo state last weekend, was arrested in the capital Caracas with one co-conspirator. Eight more remain at large.

Mr Pence flew to Colombia yesterday for talks with President Juan Manuel Santos, expected to focus on Venezuela.

But the Colombian Foreign Ministry condemned any “military measures and the use of force,” urging respect for the UN Charter and Venezuelan sovereignty.

Even Peru, which expelled Venezuelan ambassador Diego Molero on Friday to increase the pressure on pressure Mr Maduro to quit, balked at the threat of military intervention

A Foreign Ministry statement rejected “any threat or use of force not authorised by the United Nations security council.”

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