LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
It's not only North Korea that has been the target of President Trump's rhetoric this week. Late on Friday, Mr. Trump sent a surprising message to the Venezuelan government.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Venezuela is not very far away. And the people are suffering. And they're dying. We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: The Venezuelan defense minister described Trump's words as an act of madness. And the White House issued a statement saying that it had rejected a call from Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro. Most Venezuelan government officials have closed ranks around President Maduro during Venezuela's descent into political and economic chaos. But cracks are starting to show. One prominent defector is senior diplomat Isaias Medina. He resigned last month from his post representing Venezuela at the United Nations, citing alarm over human rights abuses by the Maduro government. Mr. Medina joins us now from Miami. Welcome to the program.
ISAIAS MEDINA: Thank you so much, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Can you first give us your reaction to President Trump's implicit threat?
MEDINA: Certainly. First of all, I don't think it's a threat. This is a fact. And in my opinion, the Venezuelan people after so much suffering will welcome a humanitarian intervention supported by military action with open arms.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You believe that they would welcome the United States coming in through military force to Venezuela right now?
MEDINA: Certainly. I mean, there is nothing else that Maduro can do to the Venezuelan citizens. He's taken their food, their medicines, treatments and also killing them in the street.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, Venezuela has been in a state of crisis for many, many years now. Why now? What was the motivating factor to have you resign from representing Venezuela?
MEDINA: Well, as you have noticed, the last four months have been very evident of going beyond and above other negligent and ineffective actions that the Maduro government and the government of Chavez before him has kind of accomplished. This time it's a clear dictatorship. I don't think there is a possibility of any one to stand aside and stay silent.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What did you expect that your break with the government would signify? What were you hoping to achieve?
MEDINA: Well, I'm doing it right now as - just become the international voice for so many Venezuelans that are trying to reach out international community to make them aware of the situation. And right now, what you saw about the U.S. is very important to highlight that military technology allows, in modern warfare, tactical operational and strategic surgical actions with minimal civilian impact.
And right now, it is so difficult when you see kids, students fighting at the National Guards - sticks and stones against bullets. And this is why it's so important that the international community can come together for an international humanitarian intervention and help out and liberate 30 million Venezuelans that have been hijacked by an international criminal organization.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: If that doesn't happen, what is the way forward?
MEDINA: It's a duty to act against a criminal organization that wants to impose a communist totalitarian regime by force, violating the preeminence of the constitution of Venezuela. Therefore, there are former militaries and also active military factions taking up arms. And it seems that this will be the only way to be able to stop Maduro's regime from continuing to act against its civilian citizenship.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What you seem to be advocating is essentially a coup. You know, President Nicolas Maduro was legitimately elected.
MEDINA: Well, I wouldn't call it a coup. What I'm saying again...
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That what he - that's what they would say.
MEDINA: Honestly, I think they will say anything to remain in power because they have nowhere to run. But what is very important is to understand that we must defend peace, democracy and freedom and fight crime, corruption, violence, drug trafficking and terrorism represented by Maduro's criminal dictatorship before it institutionalizes a totalitarian regime the likes of North Korea in Latin America.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Isaias Medina is a former Venezuelan diplomat. Thank you very much for joining us.
MEDINA: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.