President Trump’s remarks on Friday that he would not rule out a “military option” to quell the chaos in Venezuela set off a late-night diplomatic duel, with the defense minister accusing Mr. Trump of “an act of madness” and the White House saying it had turned away a call from Venezuela’s president.
“It is an act of supreme extremism,” Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said late Friday in Caracas, the capital.
“As our minister of defense and a Venezuelan citizen,” he added, “I say it is an act of madness.”
About an hour later, the White House issued a statement saying that Mr. Trump had refused to take a phone call on Friday from Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro.
“Today, Nicolas Maduro requested a phone call with President Donald J. Trump,” the White House said. “President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country.”
Venezuelan officials did not confirm the White House’s account of the phone call. They seemed shocked that Mr. Trump had mentioned their country — troubled for weeks by protests and charges of election fraud — alongside a nuclear-armed North Korea
The Venezuelan communications minister, Ernesto Villegas, in a television interview, called Mr. Trump’s remark “an unprecedented threat to national sovereignty.”
Mr. Padrino did not indicate how Venezuela would officially respond to the comments by Mr. Trump, who said, “Venezuela is not very far away, and the people are suffering, and they’re dying.”
“We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option, if necessary,” Mr. Trump said.
The defense minister said to expect a more detailed diplomatic response on Saturday.
Mr. Padrino said he would “prefer that the chancellor of the republic be the one who speaks, although I as a soldier, together with the Bolivarian National Armed Forces and with the people, am sure that we will all be in the front row, defending the interests and sovereignty of our cherished and beloved Venezuela.”
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