Donald Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion in 2017, held unofficial discussions with Latin American allies, says US official

Although Trump gave no indication he was about to order up military plans to invade Venezuela, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s

The Associated Press July 05, 2018 10:49:27 IST
Donald Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion in 2017, held unofficial discussions with Latin American allies, says US official

Bogota: As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, president Donald Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unravelling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can't the US just simply invade the troubled country?

The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and national security adviser HR McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration. This account of the previously undisclosed conversation comes from a senior administration official familiar with what was said.

Donald Trump pressed aides on Venezuela invasion in 2017 held unofficial discussions with Latin American allies says US official

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

In an exchange that lasted around five minutes, McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship, according to the official. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s. The idea, despite his aides' best attempts to shoot it down, would nonetheless persist in the president's head.

The next day, 11 August, Trump alarmed friends and foes alike with talk of a "military option" to remove Maduro from power. The public remarks were initially dismissed in US policy circles as the sort of martial bluster people have come to expect from the reality TV star turned commander in chief. But shortly afterwards, he raised the issue with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, according to the US official. Two high-ranking Colombian officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing Trump confirmed the report.

Then in September, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Trump discussed it again, this time at greater length, in a private dinner with leaders from four Latin American allies that included Santos, the same three people said and Politico reported in February. The US official said Trump was specifically briefed not to raise the issue and told it wouldn't play well, but the first thing the president said at the dinner was, "My staff told me not to say this." Trump then went around asking each leader if they were sure they didn't want a military solution, according to the official, who added that each leader told Trump in clear terms they were sure.

Eventually, McMaster would pull aside the president and walk him through the dangers of an invasion, the official said. Taken together, the behind-the-scenes talks, the extent and details of which have not been previously reported, highlight how Venezuela's political and economic crisis has received top attention under Trump in a way that was unimaginable in the Obama administration. But critics say it also underscores how his "America First" foreign policy at times can seem outright reckless, providing ammunition to America's adversaries.

Updated Date:

Subscribe to Moneycontrol Pro at ₹499 for the first year. Use code PRO499. Limited period offer. *T&C apply

also read

Mike Tyson to Serena Williams, sports stars wish Tiger Woods a speedy recovery
Sports

Mike Tyson to Serena Williams, sports stars wish Tiger Woods a speedy recovery

The accident occurred at around 7:15 am local time on Tuesday in south Los Angeles.

'Do you miss me yet?': Donald Trump returns to address Conservatives, pledges unity in GOP
World

'Do you miss me yet?': Donald Trump returns to address Conservatives, pledges unity in GOP

A handful of Republican lawmakers have urged the party to move on from Trump, most prominently Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming

US Capitol violence: Security officials blame faulty intelligence inputs for deadly breach
World

US Capitol violence: Security officials blame faulty intelligence inputs for deadly breach

The officials said they had expected the protests to be similar to two pro-Donald Trump events in late 2020 that were far less violent