August 1, 2019 / 9:05 PM / 18 days ago

Trump says U.S. blockade or quarantine of Venezuela under consideration

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony for the "Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 29, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was considering a quarantine or blockade of Venezuela, as the United States steps up pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to relinquish power.

Trump did not elaborate on when or how such a blockade could be imposed, and his administration has so far focused on diplomatic and economic pressure against Maduro while steering clear of any military action.

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.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The United States and most Western countries recognize opposition politician Juan Guaido as the rightful leader of Venezuela.

Trump has slapped a series of escalating sanctions on Venezuela to pressure Maduro to step down and has previously declined to rule out military action. But U.S. officials have made clear that they are focused on economic and diplomatic measures and have shown no significant signs of taking up military options.

Washington’s Latin American allies have also cautioned against U.S. military intervention.

Russia, China and Iran have expressed support for Maduro and Russia has dispatched small numbers of troops to the South American country.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper; writing by Eric Beech; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Tom Brown

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