Source: The Hill
By Rafael Bernal
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Monday hit back at President Trump for floating a “military option” in the South American country.
“Venezuela cannot be threatened, Mr. Trump,” Maduro told supporters at a rally in Caracas, Reuters reported.
He also called Trump’s remarks “disproportionate and offensive.”
Trump on Friday said he would not “rule out” military action against Venezuela, which has been racked by economic turmoil and a Maduro crackdown on political opponents.
Maduro’s rally, an “anti-imperialist protest” organized by the Venezuelan government, focused on Trump’s statements. The organizers promoted social media hashtags like #StopTrump and #TrumpGoHome.
The controversy comes as Maduro looks to tighten his hold on power following an election that picked an assembly to rewrite the country’s constitution.
The United States levied sanctions on Maduro and 13 officials over the election, which was criticized by Venezuela’s neighbors as a power grab by the government. Opposition groups also boycotted the vote.
Vice President Pence is also traveling through South America. On Monday, at a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia, Pence said Trump spoke with resolve, but wanted a peaceful resolution, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“President Trump is a leader who says what he means and means what he says, but the president sent me here to continue to marshal the unprecedented support of countries across Latin America to achieve by peaceable means the restoration of democracy in Latin America, and we believe it is achievable by those means,” said Pence speaking alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
The Pentagon also said Monday that Trump has yet to ask for any military options regarding Venezuela.
But Maduro has seized on the comments to back up claims he and his predecessor Hugo Chavez have long made that the U.S. poses a legitimate threat to the country.
The televised rally was interrupted at one point to broadcast an address by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, reported Reuters.
Padrino, standing with armed soldiers, warned the United States was after Venezuela’s oil reserves.
The Venezuelan opposition also criticized the threat of military force, but failed to mention Trump by name. They also slammed the Maduro government for its close ties with Cuba’s communist regime.