During a brief address on Monday, Colombia's Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes said that his government didn't know why US National Security Adviser John Bolton was holding a notepad with the words "5,000 troops to Colombia" on it during a press conference about new Venezuela sanctions.
The South American country's foreign minister stressed that Bogota would continue "acting politically and diplomatically" so that order is restored in Venezuela and new elections are held.
Bolton was earlier photographed with a yellow pad that raised questions about whether the Trump administration was planning to deploy armed forces to Colombia amid the presidential crisis in neighbouring Venezuela:
My eagle-eyed colleague spotted on Bolton’s notepad what sure looks like:— Ned Price (@nedprice) 28 January 2019
“Afghanistan—>welcome the talks.
5,000 troops to Colombia” pic.twitter.com/Al4mCGJIfU
The phrase was seen during a news conference during which Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company.
Last week, Colombia, which borders Venezuela, joined a US-led chorus of countries in backing Juan Guaido, the leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, who has proclaimed himself interim president.
The Trump administration has on a multitude of occasions said that "all options" are under consideration in order to pressure Maduro to step down.
Most recently, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham claimed that President Trump had discussed with him the possibility of using military force in Venezuela weeks ago.
"He [Trump] said, 'What do you think about using military force?' and I said, 'Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic.' And he said, 'Well, I'm surprised, you want to invade everybody,'" Graham told Axios.
However, a representative for the Colombian Defence Ministry told Sputnik that the government was not going to provide the US with military bases in the event of a potential military operation against Venezuela.
Commenting on Bolton's notes, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook that attempts to meddle in Venezuelan domestic affairs originated from Colombia.
"Let me recall that the 'return of democracy' to Venezuela or, calling things by their true names, the destabilisation of the situation in this country is being carried out from the territory of Colombia. And what about non-interference in internal affairs — from elections to cybersecurity, which have been subject of such concern for the collective West over recent years — you will ask?" Zakharova wrote.
Guaido Confirms Conversation With Trump
Opposition figure Juan Guaido told CNN on Monday that he had spoken with Donald Trump and "other presidents in the region", although he didn't provide any details on when the phone conversations took place, nor did he reveal the content of the call.
Guaido only elaborated that all his talks with heads of state had focused on resolving the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and restoring democracy.
Speaking with the Colombian newspaper Tiempo, Guaido expressed hope that Washington would avoid using force in Venezuela and limit its pressure on the Maduro government to diplomatic and economic measures.
The internal situation in Venezuela escalated last week when Guaido declared himself the country's interim president on 22 January in a move that has been swiftly recognised by the US, Canada and some South American countries. Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the opposition leader as a "puppet" and accused the US of staging a coup d'etat.
While the US called on the international community to support Guaido and urged Maduro to step down, the Venezuelan president announced that Caracas was breaking diplomatic ties with Washington and gave American diplomatic staff 72 hours to leave the Latin American country.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, however, claimed that Maduro lacked the legal authority to declare US diplomats personae non gratae, therefore they would remain in the country.
In the meantime, Germany, France, the UK, and Spain have also signalled their intention to recognise Guaido as interim president if new elections are not announced in Venezuela within eight days.
Russia, for its part, has stated that Maduro is the country's only legitimately elected president, and voiced readiness to act as a mediator between the Maduro government and the Guaido-led opposition.