National security adviser John Bolton speaks to the media about Venezuela outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 30, 2019. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
May 3 (UPI) -- U.S. national security officials met at the Pentagon Friday morning to discuss the ongoing crisis in Venezuela as the United States prepares for its next move.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, national security adviser John Bolton and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy John Rood, and possibly others, met in the "tank" section of the Pentagon, the most secure area of the facility.
On Wednesday, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military is "prepared to support the President should he require more from" them.
President Donald Trump is looking for more ways to financially support Guaido with an influx of cash.
Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez said members of the Venezuelan military want to see the end of the regime of President Nicolas Maduro and he believes it will happen in a matter of weeks. There were at least four deaths in protests earlier this week, which also saw hundreds of injuries and arrests. In one video, pro-Maduro armored vehicles appeared to mow down groups of protesters.
Lopez has been in some form of detention since protests started in 2014 but was seen Tuesday alongside another opposition leader, Juan Gaido, whom many countries, including the United States, recognize as the legitimate leader of the country. The two were at the Spanish ambassador's house in Caracas.
"I had meetings in my house when I was under house arrest. I met there with commanders, I met there with generals," Lopez said. "I met there with representatives of specific parts of the armed forces and specific parts of the police forces."
The people he met made a "commitment" to ending the "usurpation" of Maduro. Some members of the military helped Lopez escape house arrest. He said they pardoned him and he took refuge at the Spanish ambassador's house. An arrest warrant was issued Thursday but the Spanish government said it has "no intention" of turning him over.
On Wednesday, his house was raided by "delinquents," Lopez's wife Lilian Tintori said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., blamed the United States for the situation in Venezuela, including sanctions.
"This particular bullying and use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela and it certainly does not help and is not in the interest of the United States," Omar told Democracy Now.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lashed out against Omar's comments, calling them "ignorant" and "disgusting." He blames the country's problems on socialism.
"So, the nicest thing I can say is it is unbelievable ignorance. It's just factually wrong," Pompeo told Fox News. "The problems in Venezuela have been years in the making. It's been a socialist regime, first with Chavez now with Maduro. The destruction of a wealthy nation. A nation with more oil reserves than any other country in the world."
Protesters from both sides clashed at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. Thursday, with opponents of Maduro on one side and anti-U.S. intervention protesters on the other. The group opposing U.S. intervention has been at the embassy for more than two weeks. The anti-Maduro crowd has about 20 activists, mostly Venezuelans, blocking the entry or exit to the embassy.
Activists from Code Pink and Popular Resistance tried to deliver food and medicine to the 25 people inside the embassy.
Three were arrested as the confrontation turned violent for a brief few seconds.