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Trump Tells CBS That Sending Troops To Venezuela Is A Possibility


Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is warning that his country could slip into civil war. Protesters were out again on the streets this weekend, many of them urging Maduro to leave office. Maduro's also facing international pressure. A series of European leaders announced today they are now recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela. President Trump announced his support for Guaido more than a week ago. And in an interview with CBS' Margaret Brennan over the weekend, Trump wouldn't rule out direct U.S. intervention on the ground.


MARGARET BRENNAN: What would make you use the U.S. military in Venezuela? What's the national security interest?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say that. But certainly it's something that's on the - it's an option.

MARTIN: We're joined now by Roberta Jacobson. She is former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs and a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Ambassador, thanks for being with us.

ROBERTA JACOBSON: Morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: President Trump has long argued for less U.S. intervention in other countries, far more isolationist global position. What's motivating his administration's aggressive response in Venezuela?

JACOBSON: Well, I think there's two things. One is clearly the desperation of the situation there, which I think all of us agree with. You've got a country which has the largest oil reserves on the planet, and yet 90 percent of people live in poverty and children with malnutrition. But the second, I think, is a fairly aggressive line from this administration pushed hard by the Florida delegation in Congress and those who are Venezuelan exiles as well as others that really is a throwback, frankly, to the Cold War.

MARTIN: Explain that because this is about Cuba and Cuba's influence in Venezuela. Correct?

JACOBSON: Well, I mean, and it - it's about Cuba. It's about Russia to some extent. It's about others outside the hemisphere engaging in this hemisphere. But it's also about this troika of tyranny, as John Bolton said in a speech in Miami not long ago. And that is the kind of language that we haven't heard in decades. And I think all of us are incredibly frustrated and angry about the usurpation of power by Maduro in Venezuela. But I think leaving the military option so aggressively out there really reawakens the genetic anti-Americanism and memory of U.S. intervention in the past and can be very harmful and risky.

MARTIN: So as you know, the U.S. has a mixed record of supporting movements and leaders in South America. How does the U.S. administration, the Trump administration, avoid those pitfalls?

JACOBSON: Well, I think one of the most important things in support of Guaido and the National Assembly, which are the remaining legitimate organization - institution in Venezuela, is to try and support humanitarian aid. People will support someone who eases their misery. And I know some humanitarian aid was announced yesterday, but that won't get into the country. That will get to borders, but it won't get into the country.

MARTIN: Right, because Maduro is still the president.

JACOBSON: Correct. And he holds a monopoly of power. So I think the other crucial question, which we don't know too much about, is what is going on in the military behind the scenes. There has been a couple of defectors but not a lot. But many below the rank of general are living the same poverty that others are. And so the question is when those cracks begin to show. And Guaido has to act to try and gain that support, which I believe he's trying to do. But the most important thing would be to get humanitarian aid in working with international organizations.

MARTIN: Does it make a difference, you think, that European countries are now following the U.S. lead here, including the U.K., France, Germany, a list of others now supporting Guaido?

JACOBSON: Right. And the European Parliament voted to support yesterday hopefully the - or the other day and hopefully the European Union as a whole will. I think it does make a difference. I think it's always important the more countries you can have sort of on your side supporting Guaido. The circle of people is getting smaller that support Maduro, and that's important.

MARTIN: Do you think he ends up leaving?

JACOBSON: I think he ends up leaving only when there's a physical threat to him or his family or imprisonment or when the military says it's time to go. And I don't think we're there yet.

MARTIN: Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

JACOBSON: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.