Senators urge Trump to avoid blockade of Venezuela oil shipments

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They were for a perceived moves "dictatorship" in Venezuela through Maduro's establishment this month of a new, all-powerful assembly filled with loyalists that has powers to override the country's legislature, controlled by the opposition.

Late Friday, Venezuela Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino told state television the US president's comments were "an act of craziness".

The constituent assembly was created after balloting last month, rejected by the United States as "an undemocratic process instigated by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government to subvert the will of the Venezuelan people".

The Peruvian leader, a former Wall Street investor who spent decades living in the USA, is frequently mocked on Venezuelan state TV and was once even called the "empire's lapdog" by the country's foreign minister.

"It's hard to imagine a worse time for Trump to make this threat", David Smilde, a senior fellow with the Washington Office on Latin America, said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department would not confirm that, el Nuevo Herald reported.

Speaking to reporters Friday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump bemoaned the South American nation's growing humanitarian crisis and declared that all options remain on the table-including a potential military intervention.

The Pentagon has said that #The United States military is prepared to support efforts to secure USA citizens and other American interests in Venezuela. Suspicion and resentment linger in many corners of the region, a reflection of years past when US troops did in fact invade parts of Latin America to oust leftist leaders or collect unpaid debts. Both countries have invested in Venezuela for years.

The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after a July 30 vote that allowed the President to replace the opposition-held National Assembly with a new 545-member Constituent Assembly filled with his supporters.

While economic and diplomatic sanctions are effective in dealing with Venezuela, Latin America specialists say that the United States should work with other countries to apply pressure in favor of democracy while offering much-needed humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.

The Pentagon said the USA military was ready to support efforts to protect US citizens and America's national interests overseas.

The menace, however, also gave Maduro's regime an unexpected opportunity to substantiate its daily refrain that it is a victim of a Washington plot to grab control of its oil reserves, the biggest in the world.

Venezuela is facing mounting worldwide criticism over Maduro's crackdown on opponents and moves to consolidate power, including the selection of the all-powerful assembly.

The developments have prompted major Latin American nations Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru to slam Maduro's government for "breaking democratic rule". The vice president is expected to meet with each of the country's leaders, deliver a major speech on U.S.

Well before Maduro himself responded, governments in Latin America with a long memory of USA interventions were quick to express alarm over what sounded to them like saber-rattling.

"I think they consider Pence more predictable and measured", she said.

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