National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Friday that there is no imminent threat of U.S. military action in Venezuela, on the same day the U.S. rolled out new economic sanctions.
President Trump initially floated what he called a "military option" for Venezuela earlier this month when he told reporters in New Jersey: "We have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option if necessary."
Venezuela is run by socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who is the target of mass protests as the nation's economy tanks. Maduro's allies have created a Constituent Assembly to circumvent the opposition-held National Assembly.
But McMaster clarified on Friday that "obviously any decision would be in conjunction with our partners in the region, and no military actions are anticipated in the near future."
The president of next-door Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, told Vice President Mike Pence during a recent joint press conference that "the possibility of military intervention shouldn't even be considered."
McMaster said a military option is seen as part of a potential integrated approach.
"There's no such thing really anymore as only a military option or a diplomatic option or an economic option, we try to integrate all elements together," he said. "What the president asked us to do is: he said, 'look at how this could evolve in the future and provide a broad range — as we always do — of integrated options for the president.'"
"The president directed us not just to develop plans for the current situation but to anticipate the possibility of a further deterioration within Venezuela," McMaster said. "The president said if things get worse, how could they get worse? And what are a range of options available to him that we could take in concert certainly with our partners in the region?"
The Army lieutenant general was briefing reporters on the fourth wave of economic sanctions targeting Venezuela's government. He appeared on stage alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who did not discuss military action.
Later in the press conference, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said that regarding Venezuela "the focus is first to use things like sanctions."