(Reuters)

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Hundreds of Russian mercenaries are in Venezuela to prop up the "illegitimate regime" of President Nicolas Maduro, who has announced his intention to go to North Korea to break out of the isolation imposed by the U.S. and its allies, Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, said Friday at a breakfast with reporters in Washington, D.C.

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(Reuters/Manaure Quintero)

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan Socialist Party Vice President Diosdado Cabello on Saturday predicted U.S. Marines will "likely" enter the South American country, speaking a week after a confrontation between aircraft belonging to the two countries' armed forces.

"We are few, a small country, we are very humble, and here it is likely that the U.S. Marines enter. It is likely that they enter," Cabello told the Sao Paulo Forum, a gathering of leftist politicians and activists from across Latin America, without citing evidence.

"Their problem will be getting out of Venezuela."

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President Donald Trump speaks about American missile defense doctrine, Thursday, Jan 17, 2019, at the Pentagon. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — In two years as president, Donald Trump built a foreign policy strategy on applying as much pressure as possible on enemies — and even some allies — to make them bend to America's will.

Venezuela, North Korea and Iran have all been targets of the administration's "maximum pressure" approach. Under Trump, U.S. sanctions were deployed to notable effect: Venezuela's battered economy is more isolated than ever, Iran has seen oil sales plummet and North Korea has struggled as fuel and electricity shortages crimp output and food shortages loom.

Yet no adversary has buckled. So, short of war, what does the U.S. do now?

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An opposition supporter holds a Venezuelan flag during a rally against the government of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and to commemorate May Day in Caracas Venezuela, May 1, 2019. (Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino)

CARACAS (Reuters) - A Venezuelan general called on the country's armed forces on Sunday to rise up against President Nicolas Maduro, who has relied on the backing of the military to hold on to power despite an economic collapse.

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AP Photo/Fernando Llano.

It may be too soon for your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent to submit an embed request for Operation Venezuela Libre, but the Pentagon is certainly thinking about what's going on south of the border.

On April 30, it appeared as though Venezuela's dictator Nicolas Maduro was about to fall when opposition leader Juan Guaidó appealed to Venezuelan armed forces to join him.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Maduro the next day that "military action" in Venezuela is possible — but when all was said and done, more was said and done.

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The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) anchors off the coast of Peru on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command's Enduring Promise initiative. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Scott Bigley)

The Defense Department planned Friday to send a Navy hospital ship to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela as senior national security officials convened at the Pentagon to discuss military options for pressuring the country's president to step down.

Officials said the Comfort, a 1,000-bed vessel, probably would be sent off the coast of northern Colombia, near enough to treat refugees who have fled Venezuela.

An announcement is expected next week.

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