National Security Adviser John Bolton briefed reporters outside the West Wing on the situation in Venezuela.
National Security Adviser John Bolton just briefed reporters outside the West Wing on the situation in Venezuela, saying the President is following it “minute by minute” today.
He did not announce any military action, but said repeatedly “all options are on the table.” He also called by name a few times for three officials in Venezuela — the defense minister, chief judge of Supreme Court, and commander of the presidential guard – to support Guaido taking power.
“We are seeing the Venezuelan people strive to get a government that they control not … an authoritarian military regime,” Bolton said at the opening. “This is a very serious situation. The president has been monitoring it minute-by-minute throughout the day.”
“This is clearly not a coup. We recognize Juan Guaido as legitimate … president of Venezuela”
He called it a “potentially dispositive moment” for Venezuelans to regain their freedom and later “a very delicate moment.”
“If this effort fails, they will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives.”
Regarding the defense minister, chief judge of the Supreme Court, and commander of the presidential guard: “they need to be able to act this afternoon or this evening.”
He also multiple times called out the Cuban government for allegedly supporting the Maduro regime: “The Cubans, we believe, have played a very significant role in propping Maduro up today, possibly with help from the Russians, that’s the speculation,” Bolton said. He said “Cuban-directed thugs” and “motorcycle gangs” are supporting the regime by protecting buildings, etc.
He demurred on military support at this time — “We want as our principal objective a peaceful transfer of power,” he said – but added: “All options are on the table.”
He said the U.S. is currently “providing support in a variety of respects” including humanitarian aid and others “I’m not going to talk about
He was asked whether the administration had been briefed in advance. “We feel very well informed about what is going on,” he answered.
He warned it would be a “big mistake” for Maduro to use force against civilians. Asked about the footage of tanks running over what appear to be protesters, he said he had seen that video.
“We’re watching very carefully what’s happening,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what the command structure is now … I saw that film myself, it could be an isolated incident.” He said he didn’t want to speak imprudently
Asked about offering Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans in the interim: “We have that question under review, obviously our hope is we can get a change in regime in Caracas as soon as possible,” he said. He added the US doesn’t want to send anybody into a dangerous situation.
Asked if the administration had spoken with Russia: “We’ve made it clear to Russia in both public and private statements … that we regard the actions they’ve taken in Venezuela as something we regard with the utmost seriousness” and emphasized civilians should not be harmed.
He added there may be a further briefing on Thursday or Friday: “We’ve been planning for what we call the day after, the day after Maduro, for some time … We can provide a lot of assistance to the Guaido government.” He said the administration was working to “refine” those plans.
Asked if the administration would look at other authoritarian regimes after this episode, like Russia, Turkey and the Philippines, he said: “In this hemisphere, we’ve called out the troika of tyranny, Venezuela Nicaragua and Cuba.”
“Our focus right now … is on this peaceful transition of power.”