Pompeo Says All Venezuela Options Open, Including Military

(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. has a full range of options available to help oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and didn’t rule out “ultimately” using military action on top of diplomatic, political and other pressure points.

“We’re preparing those for him so that when the situation arises, we’re not flat-footed,’’ Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week,” one of three scheduled appearances on Sunday morning political shows.

Pompeo said Sunday that he can’t predict when Maduro will be forced out of office -- whether days, weeks or months. But Maduro can’t feel good about his situation because while he might be ruling for the moment, he can’t govern, Pompeo said.

“There’s enormous poverty, enormous starvation, sick children that can’t get medicine,” Pompeo said. “This is not someone who can be part of Venezuela’s future.”

The U.S. didn’t suffer an intelligence failure this week about the prospects of Venezuelan opposition Juan Guaido successfully leading an uprising to oust Maduro, Pompeo said on ABC. “These things sometimes take time,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Pompeo said on ABC that Maduro wouldn’t be in power without assistance from Cuba, and he also dismissed the idea that President Donald Trump is out of step with his own advisers on the role Russia is playing in supporting Maduro in Venezuela.

Trump on Friday said Russian President Vladimir Putin assured him he isn’t seeking to “get involved” in the crisis, although Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton both said earlier in the week that the Kremlin talked Maduro out of leaving Venezuela after U.S.-backed Guaido attempted to end his regime by calling for a military uprising.

“The president has made clear, we want everyone out, and that includes the Russians,” Pompeo said.

Guaido on Saturday told the Washington Post he cannot rule out the option of the U.S. military working with his nation’s armed forces. Such an offer from the Trump administration would have to be voted on in the Venezuelan parliament, he said.

Military Options

Pompeo, Bolton and other top national security officials were briefed Friday on potential military options for the U.S. Asked on Sunday whether military action would require approval from Congress, Pompeo said he didn’t want to speak to that but added, “I’m very confident that any action we took in Venezuela would be lawful.”

Pompeo’s comments came as he prepares to depart on a multi-day trip to Europe, where he’ll meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others.

Before meeting with Pompeo, Lavrov plans to speak with Jorge Arreaza, Maduro’s foreign minister, the Russian state news service RIA Novosti reported on Saturday.

The pair will discuss Guaido’s recent actions as well as external pressure on Venezuela, including U.S. involvement, according to Sergei Ryabkov, Lavrov’s deputy. He termed the sequence of meetings a matter of scheduling, not signaling.

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