Washington, Mar 27 (EFE).- US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Russia “has to get out” of Venezuela, referring to the roughly 100 Russian military personnel who arrived in the South American nation on the weekend, and he suggested that military force is the only mechanism whereby the White House could increase the pressure on the leftist government in Caracas.
“Russia has to get out,” said Trump when asked about Moscow’s military presence in Venezuela during an Oval Office meeting with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of the speaker of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido.
Last Sunday, two Russian military aircraft landed at Maiquetia International Airport, which serves Caracas, and – according to the daily El Nacional – on board were about 100 Russian soldiers.
The US State Department warned on Monday that Washington “will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela,” but Moscow defended its military cooperation with the Nicolas Maduro government, which the US and some 50 other nations consider to be illegitimate.
When asked on Wednesday what the US can do to increase pressure on the Maduro regime, Trump responded: “They’ve got a lot of pressure right now. They have no money, they have no oil, they have no nothing. They’ve got plenty of pressure right now. They have no electricity. Other than military you can’t get any more pressure than they have … All options are open.”
Trump seemed to contradict his own statements from last week, when he said that his administration had not yet put really “tough” sanctions in place against Maduro and was keeping that tool available if it were necessary to ratchet up pressure on him.
Vice President Mike Pence also spoke about the arrival of Russian troops in Venezuela during his own meeting with Guaido’s wife, just before Rosales went to the Oval Office to meet with Trump and his daughter Ivanka, a meeting that had not been announced in advance.
“The United States views Russia’s arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation,” Pence told reporters. “We call on Russia today to cease all support of the Maduro regime and stand with Juan Guaido and stand with nations across this hemisphere and across the world until freedom is restored.”
Russia, China and India are among the more than 100 UN member-states that continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela’s president.