Latin American countries often critical of Venezuela have rejected the United States’ threat to use force against the conflict-hit country.
In a statement on Saturday, the South American trade bloc Mercosur rejected US President Donald Trump’s suggestion that a “military option” was possible to solve the ongoing domestic political crisis in Venezuela, saying that, “The only acceptable means of promoting democracy are dialog and diplomacy.”
The bloc, which consists of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, added, “The repudiation of violence and any option that implies the use of force is inalienable and constitutes the fundamental basis for democratic coexistence.”
Other South American countries, such as Peru, Mexico, and Colombia, also joined the chorus of Latin American unity against the US with statements of their own, criticizing Washington’s threat of military action against Caracas as a move against the United Nations’ principles.
Senior Venezuelan officials have also responded to Trump’s threat. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino denounced the threat as “an act of craziness,” and Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas described it as “an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty.”
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also has rejected the threat as “hostile,” and called on Latin America to unite against Washington.
“The reckless threat by President Trump aims to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter stability, peace, and security in our region,” he said.
Trump’s threat came as the oil-rich but impoverished country has been convulsed by months of deadly protests against the government in Caracas.
While some of the Latin American countries that rejected the use of force against Venezuela have been critical of Caracas, Trump’s threat seemed to have been an escalation that warranted a rare moment of unity with the Venezuelan government. They did not, however, offer any explicit support for Caracas beyond rejecting the American threat of force.
Political tensions in Venezuela rose recently after Caracas announced plans to establish a Constituent Assembly to take over the opposition-controlled parliament and rewrite the constitution. The opposition saw the move as an overt attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to accumulate power.
Protests erupted on the streets, and clashes led to the death of at least 120 people from the two sides.
The elections were held for the 545-member Constituent Assembly according to plan on July 30, and the government said more than eight million people participated.
Maduro, who as president is the head of the Venezuelan state, later “subordinated” himself to the Assembly.
Siding with the opposition, the US has blamed Maduro for the violence and has urged regional and international governments to take strong action against his government. The US imposed sanctions against current and former Venezuelan officials over the crisis, and the US Treasury Department later froze “dictator” Maduro’s US assets for going ahead with the elections.
The 54-year-old socialist leader says the US and its allies in the region are inciting the violence to bring down his government.