Countries across Latin America have condemned Donald Trump’s threat to use military force against Venezuela, calling instead for a peaceful solution to the nation’s crisis.
The US president surprised many in the region on Friday when he said a military option in Venezuela was “certainly something that we could pursue”.
“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possibly military option if necessary,” he told a news conference at his golf club in New Jersey.
The US threats follow president Nicolas Maduro’s creation of a new national assembly, which has the power to eclipse the democratically elected Congress and is regarded by many as a puppet parliament, designed to keep the president in power.
Peru’s foreign minister Ricardo Luna said all such threats of force “undermine the goal of reinstating democratic governance in Venezuela”. The foreign ministries of Chile, Colombia and Mexico made similar statements.
The Mercosur trade bloc, which includes Brazil and Argentina and which last week indefinitely suspended Venezuela for its failure to adhere to democratic principles, issued a statement saying that “the only acceptable tools for the promotion of democracy are dialogue and diplomacy”.
Analysts said that the Trump threat simply played into president Nicolas Maduro’s hands, giving him a great excuse to blame the US for his woes. “And just like that, Christmas came early for the strongman in Caracas,” tweeted Raul Gallegos, a Venezuela analyst at Control Risks.
In Caracas the government accused Mr Trump of trying “to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter the stability, peace and security of our region”.
Inside the new assembly on Saturday, delegates made angry speeches against Mr Trump and “Yankee imperialism”.
“If you think of invading us we’ll make [the] Vietnam [war] look small,” shouted Emilio Colina, one assembly member, to a standing ovation and rapturous applause. Nicolás Maduro Guerra, the president’s son and a member of the assembly, said Venezuelans were ready to take the fight to the US.
Polls suggest most Venezuelans oppose military intervention although many say that as democratic avenues shut down and the Maduro regime grows increasingly authoritarian, they may be left with no alternative. In a poll conducted by regional pollster Datincorp in July, 9 per cent of respondents felt the crisis would only be resolved by foreign military intervention while a further 9 per cent believed it would take a coup from the Venezuelan military.
On an anti-government march on Saturday, opinions were divided. “Without international help we’ll never get out of this mess,” said one woman, a 62-year-old business administrator who declined to give her name for fear of reprisal against her company.
“There’s no hope that our own armed forces will rise up against the government because they’re heavily involved in corruption and drug-trafficking. They have too much at stake. International intervention is the only hope.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited . All rights reserved. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.