Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that U.S. military action in Venezuela was "possible" if the U.S. government determined that it was "required."
What's happening in Venezuela?
Venezuela has been suffering from a cycle of increasing poverty exacerbated by the socialist policies of the country's dictator, Nicolás Maduro. Although Maduro was legally elected in 2013 to replace his mentor, Hugo Chavez, his 2018 election was denounced by both Venezuelan opposition leaders and the international community as being a sham.
After the election, the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, declared himself to be the rightful interim president, according to the rules laid out in the Venezuelan constitution. The U.S. government has expressed support for Guaido.
On Tuesday, Guaido called for Venezuelan citizens and the military to rise up and overthrow Maduro. Maduro's forces began fighting back against pro-Guaido supporters.
What did Pompeo say?
So far, the United States has avoided getting directly involved, but Pompeo indicated that this could change if the U.S. determined it was necessary.
On Wednesday morning, Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Pompeo if the U.S. might at any point decide that military action was necessary.
"The president has been crystal clear, and incredibly consistent," Pompeo responded. "Military action is possible. If that's what's required, that's what the United States will do. We're trying to do everything we can to avoid violence."
He also said the U.S. prefers "a peaceful transition of government there, where Maduro leaves and a new election is held" but added that the president was prepared to authorize military intervention "if that's what's required."
Pompeo also told Fox News on Tuesday that Maduro had been trying to flee Venezuela rather than risk facing opposition forces.
"He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it and the Russians indicated he should stay," Pompeo said, adding that Maduro had been "headed for Havana."
Russia and Cuba have been among Maduro's few allies through the recent events. The U.S. has been urging Russia not to get involved in the Venezuelan conflict, following a longstanding U.S. policy of trying to prevent European influence in Latin America dating back to the President James Monroe, and the Monroe Doctrine.