WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has received no orders from the White House to attack Venezuela, spokesman Eric Pahon said Friday. 

The Pentagon found itself in the unusual position to have to push back on any idea it would deploy troops to Venezuela after President Donald Trump offered at a press briefing Friday that ”a military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”

Venezuela’s president Nicolás Maduro has been violently suppressing his dissenters as his Constituent Assembly works to rewrite the country’s constitution.  The U.S. Treasury Department issued sanctions against Venezuela this month against Maduro’s government.

A reporter at the briefing asked how his administration planned to address Venezuela’s crisis, Trump suggested U.S. force may be the answer. 

“I’m not ruling out military options. We have many options for Venezuela,” Trump said. ”This is our neighbor. We’re all over the world, and we have troops all over the world in places that are very far away. Venezuela is not very far away and the people are suffering and they’re dying.”

Asked if it would be a U.S.-led military option, Trump said, ”We don’t talk about it, but a military operation, a military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”

The Pentagon referred questions to the White House, noting that ”as of right now, the Pentagon has received no orders” to attack Venezuela. 

Former U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta, speaking on CNN, had a harsher perspective. 

“The last thing we need is another flashpoint,” Panetta said. Given the current crisis with North Korea, Panetta warned that “this is not a time for loose talk.”


Tara Copp is a Pentagon correspondent for the Associated Press. She was previously Pentagon bureau chief for Sightline Media Group.

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