At Venezuela briefing, John Bolton holds up note saying ‘5,000 troops to Colombia’
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton has refused to rule out military intervention in crisis-stricken Venezuela.
Speaking after the Trump administration slapped wide-ranging sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA, Bolton said about next steps that, “The president has made it very clear on this matter that all options are on the table.”
Bolton didn’t say what those options might be. But a line scrawled on his notepad appeared to say something about troops in Colombia.
“Afghanistan -> Welcome the talks,” read the first line. The second read: “5,000 troops to Colombia.”
Bolton, long known to hold hawkish views on U.S. foreign policy, didn’t elaborate on what the note meant. A White House spokesman asked about it by a CNN reporter deferred back to Bolton’s comments about all options being on the table.
WATCH: Bolton says safety of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Venezuela ‘top priority’
However, Bolton did suggest that he believed sections of the Venezuelan military might be leaning towards abandoning embattled socialist president Nicolas Maduro, who is under pressure from the U.S. and other countries to hand over power to opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“Our assessment, based on numerous contacts on the ground, is that the rank and file of the Venezuelan military is acutely aware of the desperate economic conditions in the country and we think they look for ways to support the National Assembly government,” Bolton said.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan declined to say whether the U.S. is considering deploying troops to Colombia, saying, “I haven’t discussed that with Secretary Bolton.”
WATCH: Mnuchin says sanctions on Venezuela will be lifted once Maduro has left power
Under mounting pressure, Maduro on Sunday oversaw a display of the Venezuelan army’s Russian hardware.
He said the display showed the world that he had the backing of his military, which he said was ready to defend the country.
Maduro has previously accused Bolton and the U.S. of colluding with Colombia to try and assassinate him.
In a press conference in December, Maduro said the U.S. was using “dirty dollars bled from the U.S. empire” to train Colombian mercenaries to carry out the assassination, with the blessing of Colombian President Ivan Duque.
Colombia, one of numerous countries to see a huge influx in Venezuelan migrants fleeing food shortages and devastating inflation, rejected Maduro’s claim.
— With a file from Reuters
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