President Donald Trump said on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York that “all options are on the table” when it came to Venezuela, reiterating his hardline position against the country’s humanitarian and economic crisis.
The President’s remarks have been interpreted by some as leaving the door open for military action. However, such interpretations were rebutted by senior U.S. military leaders in Washington, who said that there was no active planning for a military intervention there.
When asked by reporters Tuesday about a possible intervention, Trump said his administration was “looking very strong at Venezuela.” A day later, he noted that “all options are on the table, every one.”
“Strong ones and the less-than-strong ones,” Trump told reporters prior to a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “And you know what I mean by strong. I just want to see Venezuela straighten out. I want the people to be safe. We’re going to take care of Venezuela.”
Meanwhile, his nominee to head U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) – the combatant command responsible for military action in South America – said his command was not drawing up any concrete military plans.
“We are not doing anything other than normal, prudent planning that a combatant command would do to prepare for a range of contingencies,” Vice Admiral Craig Faller was cited as telling the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Responding to a question about possible war plans for the South American nation, Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “Well, in fact, we do have one, it’s called a hospital ship that we’re sending down there,” referring to the Navy’s USNS Comfort – one of the largest trauma centers anywhere in the United States.
Last month, it was announced that the ship would head off the coast of Colombia to provide urgent medical care for Venezuelan refugees who had escaped the country in the wake of the economic crisis.
“It is an absolutely a humanitarian mission, we’re not sending soldiers, we’re sending doctors,” Mattis told reporters in August while announcing the ship’s deployment. “And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of [Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro] and his increasingly isolated regimes.”
Vice President Mike Pence, who also spoke at the United Nations, said the United States would also provide another $48 million in aid to countries in the region affected by the Venezuelan refugee crisis.