Top officials in the Trump administration — including the president himself — say "all options are on the table" as speculation swirls over whether the U.S. is planning to take military action in the embattled country.
Exiled former soldiers of the Nicolas Maduro regime are now asking for America to supply them with weapons to lead a revolt against the dictator.
What are the details?
Venezuela is in the middle of a power struggle, as socialist dictator Maduro is trying to fend off opposition leader Juan Guaido to maintain control of the nation. Guaido is the leader of the country's National Assembly, and declared himself the interim president of Venezuela last week.
President Donald Trump formally recognized Guaido as the legitimate leader of the nation, causing dozens of countries to follow suit. When asked if the U.S. had plans to intervene amid the unrest, Trump said of Venezuela, "We're not considering anything, but all options are on the table," CBS News reported.
That message was echoed by White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Fox News Sunday. When asked if the U.S. was ruling out military action in the instance that Maduro refuses to cede power, Mulvaney said, "I don't think any president of any party who's doing his or her job would be doing the job properly if they took anything off the table. So I think the president is looking at that extraordinarily closely."
Addressing reporters at a press briefing Monday, national security adviser John Bolton carried a notebook scribbled with the words "5,000 troops to Colombia."
The handwritten note was displayed "in full view of reporters," according to USA Today, drawing questions on social media as to whether the message was truly a signal the administration is considering sending American forces in via Venezuela's neighbor, or a purposeful "leak" aimed at threatening Maduro.
At the briefing, Bolton reiterated, "The president has made it clear that all options are on the table," in regard to Venezuela.
"We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power," he added.
Who are the defectors?
Venezuelan Army defectors Carlos Guillen Martinez and Josue Hidalgo Azuaje have made a plea to the Trump administration through CNN, asking for armaments to help with Maduro's ouster.
Martinez said, "As Venezuelan soldiers, we are making a request to the U.S. to support us, in logistical terms, with communication, with weapons, so we can realize Venezuelan freedom."
The two currently live outside Venezuela, but claim to be in communication with hundreds of soldiers currently serving under Maduro who are willing defectors.
Russia supports Maduro and has warned the U.S. against intervening in the country. Meanwhile, a source told Reuters that the Kremlin sent 400 mercenaries to Venezuela last week in order to help protect the dictator..