Stability across Latin America is in jeopardy from President Donald Trump's "reckless threat" to consider military action against Venezuela, Caracas said on Saturday, after its military vowed to stand up to the US leader's "craziness."
The warning from Trump on Friday that his administration was mulling many options, "including a possible military option if necessary," struck the government of Venezuela's beleaguered leftist president, Nicolas Maduro, like a thunderbolt.
The leadership of the crisis-wracked nation -- Latin America's biggest oil producer and an ally to Russia and Cuba -- suddenly found itself going from battling dissent, protests and growing international isolation to contemplating US military action last seen in the region in 1989, when American troops invaded Panama to topple its president, Manuel Noriega.
"The reckless threat by President Donald Trump aims to drag Latin America and the Caribbean into a conflict that would permanently alter stability, peace and security in our region," Foreign Minister Jorge
Arreaza told a news conference, reading a statement in Maduro's name.
The menace, however, also gave Maduro's regime an unexpected opportunity to substantiate its daily refrain that it is a victim of a Washington plot to grab control of its oil reserves, the biggest in the world.
The military, current and retired members of which control a third of the government, leapt on the threat to say it was the nation's only bulwark against the "imperialist aggression."
General Vladimir Padrino, Venezuela's defense minister and commander of its armed forces, on Friday called Trump's threat "an act of craziness."
"I am certain that we will all be in the first ranks defending the interests and sovereignty of our beloved Venezuela," he said.