Washington, DC—Last night, President Donald Trump responded to a question on Venezuela by warning that his administration is considering “a possible military option” to address the country’s crisis. As an organization that has consistently advocated for a peaceful, democratic resolution of the situation in Venezuela, WOLA (the Washington Office on Latin America) is deeply alarmed by President Trump’s remarks.
“This represents a major escalation and threatens to undermine diplomatic efforts to address Venezuela’s crisis, led by governments in Latin America. While the rest of the Americas have taken serious steps to pressure the Venezuelan government to abandon its authoritarian slide, President Trump’s suggestion that the United States might exercise a military option appears to dismiss these efforts,” said WOLA Associate for Venezuela Geoff Ramsey.
Representatives of 12 countries in the hemisphere issued a joint declaration from Lima, Peru, on August 8 in which they collectively agreed not to recognize the country’s illegitimate Constituent Assembly, a decision that focuses diplomatic pressure on restoring Venezuela’s democratic institutions. The countries also agreed to support a ban on arms transfers to the country, among other measures meant to achieve a “peaceful and negotiated solution” to the crisis.
“It’s hard to imagine a worse time for Trump to make this threat. Venezuela’s government has routinely used the specter of U.S. aggression as a justification for actions that violate democratic principles, and this remark will only reinforce their ant-imperialist rhetoric. There’s no question that Trump has just provided the Venezuelan government with a useful scapegoat,” said Ramsey.
In addition to illustrating a lack of understanding of diplomacy, WOLA is also profoundly concerned by the lack of awareness that President Trump’s remark shows of Venezuela’s deepening humanitarian crisis. Available data shows that millions of Venezuelans are struggling with widespread scarcity of basic economic goods and essential medicines.
“A military intervention in Venezuela would be a catastrophe, and would only deepen the suffering of Venezuela’s people. At a time when everyday Venezuelans are struggling to cope with widespread shortages of food and medicine, military options must be off the table,” said Ramsey.