February 13, 2019 / 4:29 PM / 3 days ago

U.S. Congress won't support military intervention in Venezuela: Engel

FILE PHOTO: People take part in a rally to commemorate the Day of the Youth and to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Urena, Venezuela February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress will not support U.S. military intervention in Venezuela despite comments hinting at such involvement by President Donald Trump, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said on Wednesday.

“I do worry about the president’s saber rattling, his hints that U.S. military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option,” U.S. Representative Eliot Engel said at the opening of a hearing on the volatile political situation in the OPEC nation.

Engel also warned about the possible effects on the Venezuelan people of U.S. sanctions on state oil company PDVSA. The United States in January imposed sanctions aimed at limiting President Nicolas Maduro’s access to oil revenue.

“With respect to the new sanctions on PDVSA, I appreciate the need to squeeze Maduro,” Engel said. “But the White House must think through the potential repercussions that these sanctions could have on the Venezuelan people if Maduro does not leave office in the coming weeks.”

Venezuela is already facing severe shortages of food and medicine.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, but Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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