“We are all over the world and we have troops all over the world in places that are very, very far away,” Mr. Trump said. “Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering, and they are dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”
Venezuela’s defense minister, Vladimir Padrino López, called the statement an “act of madness.”
The foreign ministry said Mr. Trump’s “bellicose” and “reckless” remarks were intended “to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter the stability, peace and security in our region.”
The current tensions stem from a plan by Mr. Maduro to consolidate power in the country. On July 30, he held a vote to install a new body, called the Constituent Assembly, that would give his ruling leftist party the right to rule the country unopposed for up to two years while rewriting the Constitution.
As the vote approached, Mr. Trump warned repeatedly that he would not tolerate the move, and he issued sanctions against members of Mr. Maduro’s government. When the vote occurred, the White House imposed sanctions on Mr. Maduro and on Friday refused to take a call Mr. Maduro had wanted to place with Mr. Trump.
Few analysts believe the United States has any real intention of using its military against Venezuela.
And while the president may have intended his remarks as a warning meant to restrain the Venezuelan government, analysts said, they could have the opposite effect, strengthening Mr. Maduro’s hand as he cracks down on dissent and blames Washington for his country’s economic and domestic strife.
“These are empty threats,” said Shannon K. O’Neil, a Latin America analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations. “And since they are empty threats, Maduro faces no new consequences by taking a tough stand, both rhetorically and against the opposition.”
Even before Mr. Trump’s remarks, the government’s crackdown on dissenters was gaining steam. On Wednesday, David Smolansky, an opposition mayor of a district in Caracas, the capital, was given a 15-month sentence for disobeying orders to shut down protests. He joined four other opposition mayors given similar sentences.
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. Many members of Mr….