A day after suggesting that he could overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, President Donald Trump indicated that a meeting between the two leaders could be possible at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)—but didn’t rule out military action.
“All options are on the table, every one,” Trump told the press Wednesday. “The strong ones and the less than strong ones and you know what I mean by strong. Every option is on the table with respect to Venezuela.”
The statement, doubling down on Trump’s earlier threat that Venezuela “could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” was just the latest threat of violent action against a foreign country by the Trump administration, coming a day after the president’s speech on Iran.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza quickly denounced Trump’s earlier threat as “grotesque.”
“Of course, because it isn’t his family that’s going to die, it’s easy for [Trump] to promote violence and the assassination of leaders in a country,” Arreaza said.
Maduro arrived in New York for the potential meeting with Trump on Wednesday after initially saying he would not attend UNGA. His arrival and Trump’s latest comments also came a day after the Trump administration announced it was imposing sanctions on Maduro’s wife, vice president, and other close associates.
The sanctions were the result of accusations of corruption by Maduro’s government. Venezuela has been the target of harsh criticism by Trump and his allies in recent months as conservatives have attempted to portray socialism as the cause of the country’s hyperinflation and high level of poverty.
As a number of journalists have reported at Vox and Yahoo Finance, the cause of Venezuela’s deterioriating economy was not the actions of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who took advantage of high oil prices to pay for strong public food subsidies and healthcare programs—but of plummeting oil production and Maduro’s consolidation of power. Yahoo reported in May:
Venezuela’s problems stem from corruption and egregious mismanagement, which can happen anywhere. Countries with socialist regimes such as China, Vietnam, Chile and many in Europe have managed to successfully grow their economies as Venezuela’s has tumbled.
The Maduro government oversaw the nationalized oil sector and took over a number of other businesses while redirecting resources from private companies to some of the country’s poorest citizens. The redistribution plan led to major reductions in poverty under former President Hugo Chávez, who remains very popular in the country.
But it buckled under Maduro when oil prices dropped and he began seizing more industries.
Trump said Wednesday that he was open to speaking with Maduro in the interest of getting Venezuela “straightened out,” as of Wednesday afternoon, hours after Maduro’s arrival in New York, White House reports indicated that Trump had not made good on his statement.