Venezuela criticizes US 'provocation' after Navy operation

Caracas  Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Pastorino called an incident on Wednesday this week in which a U.S. Navy ship took "provocative action" off the coast of the South American country.

The US Army Southern Command said on Tuesday that missile destroyer Nitez had launched a "freedom of navigation" operation on the Venezuelan coast. The Southern Command said the ship had sailed outside Venezuela's territorial waters - extending for 12 nautical miles from its shores, but the Venezuelan government had "mismanaged" one area.

Padrino said Venezuela was "not offended" by the country's long-term action. The US has imposed sanctions on the OPEC country's oil field and accused Washington of corruption and human rights violations in an attempt to oust Socialist President Nicolas Maduro overseeing the economic collapse.

In a speech on Poderino State Television, the ship said it was about 30 miles off the coast of Venezuela. "It's a childish act."

US Army Colonel and Southern Command spokeswoman Amanda Azubuike said in a statement that the independence of the Naval Navigation Operation is intended to protect maritime navigation and worldwide rights.

"This area is no different and we will continue to have the right to make more claims," ​​Azubike said.

Washington's sanctions and diplomatic pressure were not successful in forcing Maduro out of power. US President Donald Trump has said that "all options are on the table" to remove him, but US officials have made it clear that there is no big appetite for military force.

Any U.S. military ship entering Venezuela's territorial waters receives a "massive" response from the armed forces of the South American country, Poderino said.

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