President Donald Trump offered Wednesday to meet with the Venezuelan president he has described as a dictator at the United Nations if it would save Venezuelan lives.
Trump was responding to comments made by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro saying he was ready for a face-to-face meeting with Trump after being hit with additional sanctions that target his wife and others in his inner circle.
“I just want to see Venezuela straightened out,” Trump said when he arrived at the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday morning. “…If he’s here, if he wants to meet, I don’t know. It was not on my mind, it is not on my plate. But If I can help people, that’s what I’m here for.”
Trump added that Maduro “needs to act a lot more humanely. The people are suffering tremendously in Venezuela.”
Venezuela, along with Iran, has become one of the Trump’s administration biggest targets. Trump and members of his administration have gone on the offensive against the Caracas government, accusing it of bringing misery to its people and threatening regional stability.
Trump would not rule out U.S. intervention in the South American nation and promised to help all Venezuelans, including the many Venezuelans living in Miami.
“All options are on the table,” Trump said. “The strong ones and the less than strong ones. Every option. And you know what I mean by strong.”
Trump has periodically taken steps from an “escalatory road map” aides have drawn up that outlines the available economic and individual sanctions meant to pressure Maduro to restore democratic institutions.
The U.S. government has already sanctioned 70 officials, including Maduro, and restricted U.S. investment and financial transactions, including those involving Venezuela’s new digital currency.
During his speech to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, Trump announced he was tightening pressure on Maduro’s inner circle with sanctions against Venezuela’s first lady, Cilia Flores, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez.
Maduro slammed the sanctions, describing them as a badge of honor for Venezuelan revolutionaries.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused the Trump administration of being obsessed with Venezuela and questioned the sanctions on the first lady.
“Can you imagine if a country were to sanction Melania [Trump]?” he said during a press conference.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested that Maduro could be toppled by his own military as the U.S stepped up financial pressure by slapping the socialist president’s inner circle with fresh sanctions.
Miami Herald’s Jim Wyss and Nora Gámez Torres contributed.