Bolton's notes raise questions on troops as pressure builds in Venezuela
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton arrives to address reporters as the Trump administration announces economic sanctions against Venezuela and the Venezuelan state owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Young

White House national security adviser John Bolton raised questions about the United States’ intentions in Venezuela after he appeared at a briefing on Monday, with a notepad containing the words “5,000 troops to Colombia,” which neighbors Venezuela.

It was not immediately clear what Bolton’s note meant and whether President Donald Trump’s administration was seriously considering sending U.S. troops to Colombia.

It was also not clear if disclosure of the note was intentional.

Representatives for the National Security Council and the Pentagon could not be immediately reached for comment.

Bolton held the notepad at a news briefing with reporters to unveil sweeping sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, Washington’s latest step to pressure Caracas’ socialist President Nicolas Maduro to leave office.

Asked about a photograph that showed the words on the notepad, a White House spokesman said: “As the president has said, all options are on the table.”

Sending U.S. military troops to Colombia would escalate tensions with Venezuela, even as its opposition leader Juan Guaido has said a peaceful transition of power is possible, although all options were on the table.

Guaido, who proclaimed himself interim president last week with U.S. backing, told a German broadcaster he was the country’s only legitimate leader.

Separately, he told CNN in an interview aired on Tuesday: “We must use great pressure for a dictator to leave, install a transitional government and have free elections.”

Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum