(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido said he cannot rule out the option of the U.S. military working with his nation’s armed forces to oust President Nicolas Maduro, telling the Washington Post that such an offer from the Trump administration would have to be voted on in the parliament he leads.
Guaido, who is the National Assembly president and is recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by President Donald Trump and about 50 other countries, suggested he expected many more defectors from the military, along with Maduro’s resignation, after the opposition leader led a failed uprising this week. The move to push out Maduro and call for free elections still needs more military support, he said.
Instead of unilateral U.S. intervention, Guaido said such an operation would have to be accompanied by Venezuelan forces, without offering further details. He said he welcomes U.S. deliberations on military options because his movement is also considering all possibilities.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo repeated on Sunday that U.S. officials had been briefed on all options and did not rule out military action. But there are barriers -- both in Venezuela and with his boss -- and it did not seem an imminent option. He said the U.S. did not want to be caught “flat-footed.”
Tensions continue to run high after Guaido’s failed attempt to overthrow Maduro, and the so-called Lima Group last week decided to enlist Cuba in brokering a solution to the turmoil. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined the group of 14 mostly Latin American countries in turning to Venezuela’s closest ally to try to move forward from a standoff that’s also drawing in Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Trump against U.S. interference in Venezuela during a May 3 phone call. Trump told reporters that Putin had assured him Moscow isn’t seeking to “get involved” in the crisis either, despite assertions by the U.S. president’s top national security advisers that the Kremlin talked Maduro out of leaving the country after Guaido’s attempt to bring down the regime.
Those advisers, Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, were briefed “on a wide range of military options,” in Venezuela on May 3, the Pentagon said in statement.
The U.S. may be weighing options, but military action would mark a strategic shift for Trump who campaigned against what he called “stupid wars” and has staked his presidency on withdrawing from engagements elsewhere, including Afghanistan. Military action could also rile allies like Brazil and other nations in Latin America, where the U.S. has a troubled history of intervention in countries from Nicaragua to Chile.
Guaido’s plan remains to continue to reach out to Maduro loyalists, combined with international pressure and street protests, he told the Post. While the failed uprising may have shown the opposition was not as strong as it hoped, it also showed Maduro is weaker than expected, he said.
Maduro is also seeking to shore up his support among the armed forces and visited a military base on Saturday for the third straight day. State television showed Maduro walking on dirt roads flanked by hundreds of uniformed soldiers after commanders briefed him on military issues. There were 3,500 soldiers at the site, according to state television.
“Say no to traitors, out traitors, unity and supreme loyalty to the Constitution, the Fatherland, the revolution and to its legitimate commander-in-chief,” he told the troops, asking soldiers to raise their weapons in the air.
(Updates with Pompeo in fourth paragraph.)
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