Bolton says ‘all options are on the table’ for Venezuela

National security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday repeated that “all options remain on the table” in regard to possible U.S. military intervention into Venezuela, where clashes worsened between forces loyal to President Nicolás Maduro and opposition groups

“We want as our principle objective the peaceful transfer of power, but I will say again as the president has said from the outset … all options are on the table,” Bolton told reporters outside the White House.

What’s happening: The Trump administration quickly threw its support behind protests in Caracas that began Tuesday morning led by National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó, whom the U.S. recognized as the country’s interim president in January.

Bolton said so far that “over 40 people have been killed by the Maduro regime in the course of these protests.”

A call to Venezuelan officials: Bolton called upon key Venezuelan officials to follow through on promises he said they had made to support Guaidó.

“We think it’s still very important for key figures in the regime who have been talking to the opposition over these last three months to make good on their commitments to achieve the peaceful transfer of power” from Maduro to Guaidó, he said.

He specifically mentioned Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino; Maikel Moreno Pérez, president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice; and Ivan Rafael Hernandez Dala, the commander of Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence.

“All agreed that Maduro had to go. They need to be able to act this afternoon or this evening to help bring other military forces to the side of the interim president,” Bolton said.

A refresher: Ousting Maduro in Venezuela has become a top foreign policy priority of the Trump administration.

Venezuela policy has been led and executed from the National Security Council under Bolton and his Western Hemisphere chief, Mauricio Claver-Carone, a close ally of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The U.S. has imposed heavy sanctions on Venezuela, and President Trump in February came close to threatening military action in the country, saying then that “all options” were on the table.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed support for Guaidó’s efforts on Tuesday morning, writing on Twitter that the U.S. government “fully supports the Venezuelan people in their quest for freedom and democracy. Democracy cannot be defeated.”

Efforts to support Guaidó’s claim hinge on getting enough high-ranking government officers, particularly from the military, to switch allegiances.

The issue with that plan: But Padrino consistently tweeted Tuesday in support of Maduro, directly blaming the political opposition for the shooting of a colonel in his command.

“It’s a very delicate moment,” Bolton said. “I want to stress again that the president wants to see a peaceful transfer of power from Maduro to Guaidó. The possibility still exists if enough figures depart from the regime and support the opposition and that’s what we’d like to see.”

Bolton also said the uprising was “clearly not a coup.”

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