Trump threatens 'military option' against Maduro regime in Venezuela

In the July election of a legislative superbody packed with allies of unpopular socialist President Nicolas Maduro drew global condemnation for usurping the authority of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress.

Venezuela's government is energetically rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump's talk of a potential "military option" to resolve the country's political crisis, calling it the most egregious act of belligerence against Venezuela in a century and a threat to Latin America's stability.

And on Friday, the government's new Constituent Assembly was moving ahead to establish a so-called truth commission, which would serve as a new tribunal to investigate crimes.

The sudden escalation of Washington's response to Venezuela's crisis preceded U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's trip to the region beginning Sunday.

The power struggle between the government and the opposition has led to months of violent confrontations that have left more than 100 people dead, including protesters, government supporters and security forces. Peru on Friday went so far as to expel Venezuela's ambassador, and last week the South American trade bloc Mercosur suspended Venezuela for violating the group's democratic norms. In the last two months, the United States government has sanctioned more than 20 Venezuelan government officials.

The son of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday said he would "take the White House" with guns if the US pursued military intervention in his country.

His arrest was ordered by the government-stacked Supreme Court less than 48 hours after it levied a similar sentence against Ramon Muchacho, another Caracas-area mayor.

"President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country".

Venezuela is facing mounting global criticism over its crackdown on opponents and moves to consolidate power, including the selection of the constitutional assembly controlled by Maduro.

Its foreign ministry said in a statement that it was giving the Peruvian diplomat who heads the country's embassy in Venezuela five days to leave.

Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas called Trump's remark "an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty".

"If the impossible scenario of tarnishing our fatherland were ever to occur, our guns would arrive to New York, Mr. Trump, and we would take the White House", said Nicolas Maduro, the president's son, to loud applause.

"We know for a fact that the U.S.is not willing to invade Venezuela", Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Latin America policy analyst at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, said in a phone interview with NBC News. Venezuela has in turn accused America of "imperialist aggression". Maduro, wrote on Twitter on Saturday morning. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro on August 7 on his public television show Sundays with Maduro welcomed this intention to participate and again repeated his call for dialogue and reconciliation via the electoral route.

Venezuela's leftist allies in the region were quick to seize on Mr. Trump's comments.

Vanessa Coleman

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