The Venezuelan government on Saturday fired back at what it called a "reckless threat" by U.S. President Donald Trump, who included a military option as a possible action during his remarks about that nation's current turmoil.
Trump's statement "aims to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter stability, peace and security in our region," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said, reading a statement from President Nicolas Maduro.
Arreaza accused Trump of "warmongering" and said Trump's comments represented "the United States' systematic aggression against Venezuela."
Trump said Friday that a military option against Venezuela was on the table, describing the situation there as a "dangerous mess."
"We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary," Trump told reporters at his golf resort in New Jersey.
Trump said a military option was "certainly something that we could pursue." He said the people in Venezuela were "suffering and they are dying."
"We have troops all over the world in places that are very far away. Venezuela is not very far away," he said.
Talks with Tillerson, Haley
Trump said the crisis in Venezuela was one of the topics discussed during talks Friday in New Jersey with his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Also Friday, the White House said Venezuela's Maduro had requested a phone call with Trump.
"President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country," a White House statement said.
The statement added that since the start of his administration, Trump had asked that Maduro respect Venezuela's constitution. But it said Maduro had "refused to heed this call" and instead had chosen the "path of dictatorship."
Venezuela's economy has been troubled since oil prices collapsed in 2014, creating severe shortages of consumer goods, including medication, and spurring inflation to triple-digit levels.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Venezuela, targeting members of the new all-powerful constituent assembly.