National Security Advisor John Bolton has been photographed Monday holding a notepad that included the handwritten line: ‘5,000 troops to Colombia.’
Bolton spoke to White House reporters while holding the yellow notepad and discussing the crisis in Venezuela, where the US now recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim president.
The United States also announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company Monday in a coordinated effort with the main opposition leader to cripple embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s power base.
It was not until after the briefing with Bolton that observers spotted the black scrawl.
National Security Advisor John Bolton takes part in a briefing at the White House holding a yellow note pad
After the briefing, the lines ‘Afghanistan — welcome the talks’ and ‘5,000 troops to Colombia’ were noticed by observers on the note pad
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a US official said ‘we are not seeing anything that would support’ a potential troop deployment to Colombia, which neighbors Venezuela.
The Pentagon referred a query back to the White House.
During the briefing, Bolton would not rule out use of US troops in Venezuela calling for security forces ‘to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power.’
‘We’ve seen Venezuelan official and military personnel heeding this call,’ he added, citing the defection this weekend of the country’s military attache to Washington.
Opposition National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela, prays next to his wife Fabiana Rosales, second from right, during Mass at a church in Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pledged on January 28 to retaliate against the United States for its new sanctions on state oil company PDVSA
Bolton also would not rule out the use of US troop
‘The president has made it clear on this matter that all options are on the table,’ he said.
The US military’s Southern Command did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Bolton’s notepad also had the line: ‘Afghanistan — welcome the talks’ — a reference to a potential breakthrough in discussions with the Taliban.
The sanctions against state-owned PDVSA were presented as a way of preventing the leftist strongman from looting the coffers in his economically ruined country before he is replaced by the man Washington says is the rightful interim president — opposition leader Juan Guaido.
An angry Maduro accused the United States of trying to ‘steal Citgo’ and pledged to file legal action over the new sanctions.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, center, jogs alongside his Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, right, and soldiers as he visits Ft. Paramacay in Carabobo state, Venezuela
Venezuela, Maduro vs Guaido
Maduro holds a copy of the Venezuelan constitution while he speaks during a meeting with members of the Venezuelan diplomatic corp after their arrival from the United States
‘The purpose of sanctions is to change behavior,’ Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.
‘So when there is a recognition that the company is the property of, the rightful rulers, the rightful leaders, then indeed that money will be available to Guaido.’
Guaido, who heads the National Assembly legislature and has named himself acting president, issued his own statement, saying he was taking ‘orderly control of our republic’s assets abroad’ to prevent a departing Maduro from trying ‘to empty the coffers.’
Shock and fear swept through the headquarters of Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm, PDVSA , on Monday, employees said, after the US imposed sanctions aimed at limiting President Nicolas Maduro’s access to oil revenues.
A high-level manager said PDVSA President and Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo was ensconced in his office. Several employees and union leaders wondered how much worse PDVSA’s situation could get now that President Trump’s administration had frozen its crucial US-based assets.
‘There is total shock. This company is already too beat-down,’ the manager said on condition of anonymity.
PDVSA was once among the world’s leading oil companies, but has suffered years of mismanagement and output declines.
Maduro shared an impromptu performance with a live salsa band on his Twitter account with an English written tweet boasting to his supporters and challenging the opposition government and international countries seeking to remove him from office: ‘WE ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE! They cannot take away the joy of living, enjoying, struggling [fighting] and working’
Facing mounting pressure from the international community to step down, Maduro was caught on video behind conga drums as a salsa orchestra entertained pro-government backers during a youth rally on Saturday.
The embattled Venezuelan president shared images on his personal Twitter account along with a defiant caption in English that read: ‘WE ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE! They cannot take away the joy of living, enjoying, struggling [fighting] and working.’
Venezuela was once a Latin American success story and has the world’s largest oil reserves, but has been driven into the ground during years of hardline leftist rule.
With millions short of food and other basic resources, there is widespread discontent. However, so far, Maduro has retained the backing of the powerful armed forces, as well as support from Russia and China.