Following stiff sanctions on four close aides of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, President Donald Trump suggested the Venezuelan military could easily topple their president if they wanted. Trump made it clear last Tuesday that the U.S. military would not go after Maduro at the moment, but that the Venezuelan military could bring him down if they have the resolve to do that.

“It’s a regime that, frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military decides to do that,” Trump said to journalists at the U.N. General Assembly. “It’s a truly bad place in the world today.”

Maduro Mocks Trump for Sanctioning His Associates, Saying It Is a Badge of Honor

Earlier on Tuesday, the Trump administration slammed four members of Maduro’s inner circle with stiff sanctions. These are Maduro’s wife, first lady Cilia Flores; Vice President Delcy Rodriguez; Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino; and Minister of Communications Jorge Rodriguez. The U.S. government has sanctioned numerous public officials loyal to Maduro, including himself, since the Trump administration came to power.

The U.S. government accuses the Venezuelan socialist government of corruption, drug trafficking and human rights abuses. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin disclosed that the Trump administration would continue to target Maduro loyalists who empower him to keep his country’s military in his pocket.

Before this time, the U.S. government had left off Delcy Rodriguez and U.S.-trained Padrino on the understanding that they would prove useful to the Venezuelan people after Maduro is removed from power.

Maduro mocked Trump on state TV and thanked him for the sanctions. He said he considered the sanctions a “badge of honor” against an imperialist power. He also blasted the sanctions on his wife.

“If you want to attack me, come at me directly. But don’t touch Cilia and my family,” Maduro said, saying his wife is an anti-imperialist warrior. “Her only crime is being my wife.”

U.S. Military Action Unlikely, but Not Without Possibility

As part of the ongoing sanctions against Maduro and his associates, the U.S. Treasury Department impounded a $20 million jet belonging to one of socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello’s cronies. In August 2017, President Trump openly weighed the idea of a military intervention in Venezuela but has since kept mute on the possibility.

However, Fernando Cutz, the former head of U.S. policy on Venezuela said the U.S. would not consider military action in Venezuela unless it is extremely warranted. He suggested the United States could be provoked to invade Venezuela if the country’s government attacked U.S. citizens at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, or the country’s troops killed 1,000 or more of their own people.

In a strategic move, intelligence reports indicate Maduro is deploying troops to Venezuela’s border with Columbia, an ally of the United States.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Maduro must abandon any ideas for attacking Columbia, because this would prompt the U.S. to respond harshly. Pence said the American government would always stand with their allies, advising the Maduro regime not to test the “resolve of @POTUS or the American people.”

“From the country’s plummeting economy to the deterioration of the rule of law, something has got to change,” said Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican and member of the Armed Services Committee.

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