The Trump administration quickly declared enthusiastic support Tuesday for the Venezuelan opposition's effort to spark a military uprising against embattled President Nicolas Maduro. Late in the day, President Trump threatened a "full and complete embargo" and sanctions on Cuba if its troops do not cease operations in Venezuela, the AP reports. National Security Adviser John Bolton alleged earlier that Cuban troops were keeping Maduro in power in Caracas. Trump and senior foreign policy figures cast the effort headed by opposition leaders Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez as a move to restore democracy, not an attempted coup like the short-lived effort to oust then-President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
"We are with you!" Vice President Mike Pence tweeted to the opposition. "America will stand with you until freedom & democracy are restored." Trump himself tweeted that he was monitoring the situation and "the United States stands with the people of Venezuela and their Freedom!" Lopez, the country's most prominent opposition activist, had been under house arrest, and his sudden appearance would seem to have required the cooperation of troops who guard him. However, late Tuesday, he sought refuge with his family in the Spanish Embassy in Caracas, a discouraging sign for supporters of the uprising. Bolton said it was a "very delicate moment" for Venezuela. "If this effort fails, they will sink into a dictatorship from which there are very few possible alternatives," he said at the White House. (Read more Venezuela stories.)