Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan on Tuesday would not rule out sending U.S. military forces to Colombia or the region in connection with the ongoing political upheaval in Venezuela.
Shanahan told reporters that he hasn't spoken to national security adviser John Bolton about sending troops to Colombia. But he said he wouldn't comment when asked if he had other conversations about such a deployment plan or if he could rule it out.
Bolton had "5,000 troops to Colombia" written on a notepad he held during a news conference Monday announcing new sanctions on Venezuela. The White House, when asked about the note, later said in an email that "as the President has said, all options are on the table."
President Donald Trump is backing Venezuelan congress leader Juan Guaido, who has proclaimed himself interim president in the opposition's confrontation with President Nicolas Maduro. Colombia, which shares a 1,370-mile (2,200-kilometer) border with Venezuela, is also backing Guaido.
Shanahan noted the steps that the State Department and Treasury have taken, which includes new sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company.
"We're monitoring the situation very carefully and we're watching and we're working very much in real time," Shanahan said. "The interagency led by the National Security Council and ambassador Bolton created a number of options. We support them with their policy development, and, as the situation in Venezuela evolves, we're there to give them advice and counsel and support."
Asked directly about Bolton's note, Shanahan joked, "I didn't bring a notepad today."
Colombia Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said Monday that his government does not know the "importance and reason" for Bolton's note.