US President Donald Trump warned members of Venezuela’s military who remain loyal to socialist leader Nicolas Maduro that they are risking their future and their lives, Reuters reports.
If military personnel continue supporting Maduro, they will “find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You’ll lose everything,” Trump was quoted as saying in a speech in Miami on Monday.
Trump cautioned Venezuelan armed forces not to harm opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the US, many of Venezuela’s neighbors and most Western countries have recognized as interim president of Venezuela.
He urged them to accept the National Assembly leader’s offer of amnesty and demanded that they allow in food, medicine and other supplies.
The US has sent tons of aid that is being stockpiled on Colombia’s border with Venezuela, but Maduro has refused to let it in.
Maduro, who won a second term last year in an election that critics denounced as a sham, retains the backing of Russia and China and control of Venezuelan state institutions, including the security services.
Guaido, who invoked constitutional provisions to declare himself the country’s leader last month, has said that aid will enter Venezuela from neighboring countries by land and sea.
Maduro calls the aid a US-orchestrated show and denies any crisis despite many Venezuelans’ scant access to food and medicine.
“We seek a peaceful transition of power but all options are open,” Trump said.
It was a further hint of Trump’s repeated insistence that military options remain on the table, though most Latin America experts believe such action is unlikely.
The US has had direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon Maduro, a senior White House official told Reuters this month.
Trump’s aides have openly predicted more defections, but so far few military officers have turned against Maduro.
Trump used his speech at Florida International University to deliver a full-throated condemnation of socialism, saying it was “dying” across the Western Hemisphere, and branded Maduro a “puppet” of communist-ruled Cuba.
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