(Bloomberg, 21.Feb.2020) — President Donald Trump is frustrated that pressure is building too slowly on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and is still considering military options in the country, including a naval blockade, a senior administration official said.
The U.S. has put several companies that continue to do business in Venezuela on notice, the official said, including India’s Reliance Industries, Spain’s Repsol, Chevron and Greek shippers. Trump is likely to raise the issue of India’s oil imports from Venezuela with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a two-day visit next week, the official said Friday in a briefing for reporters.
The official asked not to be identified as a condition of participation in the briefing. The Trump administration has long sought to oust Maduro’s regime but has so far failed to replace him with the opposition leader it supports, National Assembly President Juan Guaido. Guaido was a surprise guest of Trump at this month’s State of the Union address.
Trump has ordered his administration to use any tools necessary to build pressure on Maduro with the goal of securing free and fair elections in Venezuela, the official said. The U.S. doesn’t believe that free elections are possible with Maduro in power, the official said.
The U.S. continues to pursue what the official called a “Trump doctrine” to foster democratic governments throughout the Western Hemisphere, akin to the Monroe Doctrine, which warned against European colonization efforts in the Americas two centuries ago. Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua remain impediments, the official said, adding that actions by Russia and China in the region are unacceptable.
The U.S. is also frustrated by Spain, which it believes is too accommodating to Maduro allies whom the U.S. believes seek to engage in illicit activity in the country. Spain has been hesitant to help oust Maduro and remains the biggest barrier in the European Union to the U.S. campaign, the official said.
Trump believes a slow-moving bureaucratic process hasn’t delivered the swift, steady pressure on Maduro he’s sought, the official said. Trump has pressed for Maduro’s ouster since 2017, the official said, but was initially recommended only incremental policy options.
At that time, other Latin American leaders were skeptical and reticent when Trump floated the idea of military action against Maduro, the official said. Now, they acknowledge that military force may be necessary, the official said, describing slow-walking efforts to oust Maduro as unsustainable.
The U.S. will release a Western Hemisphere strategy in about a month outlining its goals in the region, the official said.