Following initial reports this week that the White House is preparing to escalate sanctions on Venezuela, an unnamed senior administration official has given new confirmation that the Trump Administration is seriously considering imposing a naval blockade on Venezuela, as part of a continuing pressure campaign to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The senior official further indicated Maduro has "a short window" to voluntarily leave power before Trump could approve a full “quarantine” or “blockade” of the Latin American country.
On Thursday while taking reporters' questions, Trump was asked about some of Maduro's powerful external backers:
Asked by a reporter whether he was considering such a measure, given the amount of involvement by China and Iran in Venezuela, Trump said: “Yes, I am.” He gave no details.
The president didn't define the extent of such a "quarantine," but a follow-up report in Bloomberg indicated it would start with a complete blockade by sea, enforced by US Navy ships.
President Maduro pounced on the comments, and directed his ambassador to lodge a formal complaint with the UN Security Council, saying any attempt to block the Venezuelan coastline is "clearly illegal" according to international law and norms. He said in a televised broadcast on Friday:
Venezuela's seas would remain "free and independent."
"All of Venezuela, in a civic-military union, repudiates and rejects the statements of Donald Trump about a supposed quarantine, of a supposed blockade," Maduro said in the speech. "A blockade, why would he announce that? It is clearly illegal."
Trump over this summer has expressed an unwillingness for "military options" in Venezuela, even recently saying he was "bored" with meddling in such a complex geopolitical climate, according to reports; however, this could be the start of escalation ramping back up again after a failed military coup attempt early this year.