Trump also threatens Venezuela with ‘military option’

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Presidents Donald Trump of the U.S. and Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela (Reuters files)

BEDMINSTER, N.J. — (UPDATE – 9:23 a.m.) U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday threatened military intervention in Venezuela, a surprise escalation in Washington’s response to Venezuela’s political crisis.

Venezuela has appeared to slide toward a more volatile stage of unrest in recent days, with anti-government forces looting weapons from the military after the installation of an all-powerful new legislative body.

“The people are suffering and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary,” Trump told reporters.

Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino shot back, telling state television Trump’s threat was “an act of craziness.”

Venezuela’s foreign ministry was expected to issue a formal response to Trump’s threat by way of a statement to be issued later on Friday.

The Pentagon said it had not received any orders on Venezuela from the White House.

More than 120 people have been killed and thousands arrested in four months of unrest.