The US military is prepared to "protect" US personnel and diplomatic facilities in Venezuela if needed, the admiral in charge of American forces in South America says.
Navy Admiral Craig Faller, the head of US Southern Command, made the comment during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
He did not provide any details on how the US military might respond.
Venezuela's collapse under US sanctions and the rule of socialist President Nicolas Maduro, with the country plunged into poverty and driving some 3 million people to flee abroad, has led to further US intervention in backing opposition leader Juan Guaido after he declared himself president last month.
Major European Union nations have joined the United States, Canada and a group of Latin American countries in recognising Guaido as interim ruler.
Craig Faller claimed Venezuela had about 2000 generals and the majority of them were loyal to Maduro because of the wealth they have amassed from drug trafficking, petroleum revenue and business revenue.
Still, he said, rank-and-file soldiers were starving "just like the population" of Venezuela.
"The legitimate government of President Guaido has offered amnesty, and a place for the military forces, most of which we think would be loyal to the Constitution, not to a dictator, a place to go," Faller said.
He added that the Venezuelan military was degraded.