U.S. President Donald Trump says Russia “has to get out” of Venezuela, following the recent arrival of Russian military personnel in that country.
“All options are open,” Trump repeated several times in response to a reporter’s question Wednesday about whether the United States is willing to put “boots on the ground” to remove the Russians.
Trump added that Moscow is well aware of the U.S. stance.
Trump spoke to reporters at the White House alongside Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido.
WATCH: Trump statement on Russia in Venezuela
She went into the Oval Office following a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
“The United States views Russia’s arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation,” Pence said alongside Rosales in the Roosevelt Room. “We call on Russia today to cease all support of the Maduro regime and stand with Juan Guaido, stand with nations across this hemisphere and across the world until freedom is restored.”
“Today, in Venezuela, it is freedom or dictatorship. It is life or it is death,” Rosales said. “And those who are paying the price of this hate are the children.”
She added that children are dying in hospitals which are without electricity or needed medical supplies, and other children are succumbing “because they have no food.”
Calls to protest
The United States, along with dozens of other countries, have recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president, while Russia has backed President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaido, in Venezuela on Wednesday, called on supporters to protest Saturday against nationwide power outages.
Maduro’s cabinet ministers have accused the United States of sabotaging the electrical power grid, including a cyberattack on Venezuela’s main hydroelectric dam.
“Eighty percent of the population in Venezuela has no power,” said Guaido’s wife at the White House. “They are trying to break our morale. They want to submerge us in eternal darkness. But let me tell you that there is light, and the light is here.”
Efforts to move U.S. humanitarian aid into Venezuela from Colombia have not succeeded.
“Maduro won’t take aid,” Trump said Wednesday in the Oval Office. “We’ve sent hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of aid to the border. He won’t take the aid. He’d rather have his people starve than take the aid. I don’t think that’s good, even from a political standpoint, even from a dictator.”
Trump added that “this did not have to happen in Venezuela,” blaming previous U.S. administrations for not solving the Venezuelan issue. “This is a tragedy.”
The president added that he had “inherited a mess” with Venezuela and other foreign policy matters.
News reports say two Russian air force planes carried a Russian defense official and nearly 100 troops on Saturday into the main airport in Caracas.
“Russia has various contracts that are in the process of being fulfilled, contracts of a technical military character,” is how the Russian government-owned Sputnik news service characterized the flights, which it says carried officials to “exchange consultations.”