The head of the Organization of American States on Friday said "military intervention" to "overthrow" Nicolas Maduro's Venezuelan government must not be ruled out for the country mired in economic and humanitarian crisis.
"With regards to a military intervention aimed at overthrowing the regime of Nicolas Maduro, I think we should not exclude any option," OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro told journalists in the Colombian city of Cucuta, near the border with Venezuela.
His comments follow a report in The New York Times last Saturday that officials from US President Donald Trump's administration met secretly with Venezuelan military officers to discuss plans to oust Maduro, but eventually decided not to help.
Almagro -- dubbed an "interventionist" by Maduro -- said Caracas was committing "crimes against humanity" against its citizens.
"Suffering of the people, in the induced exodus that it is driving, puts diplomatic actions in first place, but we should not rule out any action," he said.
The OAS leader on Friday ended a three-day visit to Colombia concerning the wave of migrants fleeing there from oil-rich but impoverished Venezuela.
Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis that has triggered the departure of 1.6 million Venezuelans since 2015, according to the United Nations. Colombia has received more than one million of the migrants.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has said her government complained to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that "individual officials" have been portraying "a normal migratory flow as a humanitarian crisis to justify an intervention."
Almagro urged the international community to "not permit a dictatorship in Venezuela" because it provokes regional instability in humanitarian and security terms, alongside the effects on Venezuelans.
The Venezuelan people "have paid a more than high price to recover their freedom, to recover their democracy, and have not yet recovered it. The international community has to definitely respond to this," Almagro said.
In August 2017, media reports said Trump asked top advisors about the potential for a US invasion of Venezuela. Around the same time, he said publicly that he would not rule out a "military option" to end the chaos there.
The collapse of Venezuela's oil-based economy under the increasingly authoritarian Maduro has led to dire shortages of food and medicine.
Maduro has angrily blamed the US for many of his problems.