[News] Is a Foreign Military Intervention in Venezuela Imminent?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 25 12:05:54 EST 2019


  Is a Foreign Military Intervention in Venezuela Imminent?

By James Jordan – Alliance for Global Justice
Jan 25th 2019

According to conventional wisdom, there should be no serious talk of 
foreign military intervention in Venezuela. But these aren’t 
conventional times. The conventional playbook would adopt a strategy of 
foreign coordination of the Venezuelan opposition, economic sabotage, 
infiltration of the military, and manipulation of popular movements 
against the elected government. All this is being done, however, so far, 
not successfully. The frustrations of the Bolivarian movement’s enemies 
is palpable. Does this mean intervention is imminent? And what would 
such an intervention look like?

We know that the Trump administration met with Venezuelan coup plotters 
in 2017 and the Venezuelan opposition speaks openly of its coordination 
with the United States government. Officials in the U.S. and 
internationally have repeatedly called for the Venezuelan military and 
business people to take power, denouncing and refusing to recognize 
legitimate elections, and even having the audacity to “recognize” a “new 
president” in Venezuela who was not elected and who has no legitimate 
claim to office. Recent events have included the first ever attempted 
coup-by-drone, in August 2018; and the January 22nd mutiny by 27 
National Guard troops led by a sergeant. One might infer a sense of 
desperation among the enemies of the Bolivarian government.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton called Cuba, Venezuela, and 
Nicaragua a “Troika of Tyranny”, but the real triple threat faced by 
Latin America is the alliance of ultra-right administrations from the 
United States, Colombia, and Brazil of Donald Trump, Iván Duque, and 
Jair Bolsonaro, respectively. These Oligarchs of Overthrow have 
Venezuela in their sight, and military intervention is clearly an option 
on the table where they are seated.

Important circumstances have changed that had previously served as 
effective obstacles to intervention. Military engagements in the Middle 
East and Central Asia had made intervention in Venezuela untenable. In 
Colombia, the kind of military invasion advocated by former President 
Álvaro Uribe was impossible because the Revolutionary Armed Forces of 
Colombia (FARC) were committed to defending Venezuela from within should 
war break out. Today the FARC has transformed into a political party, 
the unarmed Revolutionary Alternative Common Force (still called FARC). 
Meanwhile, President Trump has announced troop withdrawals from both 
Syria and Afghanistan. Trump is not a man of peace, and he has openly 
expressed his support for a violent intervention in Venezuela.

Certainly, there is a long-standing connection between the Colombian 
military and the war in Afghanistan. Colombia has sent advisors, 
trainers, and special operations troops to Afghanistan, and there is a 
history of U.S. troop transfers between the two countries.  In fact, the 
application in Afghanistan of lessons learned from decades of protracted 
war in Colombia is an oft-mentioned theme among military officials. 
Regarding Syria, Venezuelan expert on unconventional warfare, Jorgé 
Negrón Valera wrote in October 2018 that, “A hypothesis of a direct 
conflict cannot be discarded. But all indications are that the the first 
thing on the Pentagon’s table will be Syria….” But as we enter 2019, the 
situation has changed. Should U.S. troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan 
and Syria, they could be well-suited for redeployment in a 
Colombia-based conflict with Venezuela.

Does all this mean that an invasion of Venezuela is imminent? Not at 
all. But it also doesn’t mean an invasion is /not /imminent, or that 
there are not scenarios that include other forms of military 
intervention. The US Empire and its Latin American partners want to use 
Venezuela as an example and put the nail in the coffin of socialist and 
popular advances in the region. They want it so badly that they are 
willing to consider options that had previously been unthinkable.

Back in the early 2000s, when then Colombian President Álvaro Uribe 
wanted the US to back him in a military assault on Venezuela, even an 
enthusiastic proponent of war like George W. Bush felt constrained to 
put the brakes on Uribe’s adventurous inclinations. At that time, 
traditional voices still were confident they could put together the 
coalition to force regime change. Nineteen years later, one cannot be 
surprised if some of that confidence has waned.

Until recently, talk about military intervention in Venezuela was 
roundly criticized and dismissed. Neither Wall Street nor the 
traditional right wing had any stomach for the disruption that would 
follow. But that was then, and this is now. Bess Levin makes this point 
in a September 2018 article published in Vanity Fair:

    “Approximately one year ago, Donald Trump said that he was
    considering a ‘military option’ in Venezuela. At the time, virtually
    no one in Washington thought this was a good idea….

    What has changed, alarmingly, is that now there are some people in
    Washington who have actually come around to the idea. Last month,
    Senator Marco Rubio said that… there is now a ‘very strong argument’
    that the situation… could very well necessitate U.S. military
    involvement. Bloomberg notes that ‘security hawks with an interest
    in Latin America are taking positions in the administration, adding
    to a sense that Washington may be warming to intervention.”

There has been a series of statements by world and national leaders 
concerning military intervention in Venezuela. President Trump famously 
declared “We have many options for Venezuela, including a possible 
military option”. In September 2018, Trump said that, Venezuela, 
“…frankly, could be toppled very quickly by the military if the military 
decides to do that.”

Likewise, in September 2018, Luís Almagro, General Secretary of the 
Organization of American States said, “With regards to a military 
intervention aimed at overthrowing the regime of Nicolas Maduro, I think 
we should not exclude any option.” Latin American opposition to military 
intervention is widespread, and a subsequent vote to denounce Almagro’s 
comment was passed by the Lima Group, specifically tasked to find a 
solution to the Venezuelan crisis. Nevertheless, it is notable that 
Canada, Colombia, and Guayana refused back this censure.

Since then, the situation on the diplomatic front has only worsened. The 
OAS’ Almagro, all thirteen members of the Lima Group, and the U.S. 
government have released statements that they would not recognize the 
election of Nicholas Maduro as Venezuela’s President. Both Almagro and 
the U.S. State Department, in an act of brazen violation of Venezuelan 
sovereignty, have instead recognized the little-known Juan Guaidó, 
leader of the right-leaning National Assembly (as opposed to the more 
popular Constituent Assembly). While President Maduro was reelected 
overwhelmingly in May 2018, Guaido has not even run in a national 
election.  Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and 
current Secretary of State Michael Pompeo released a statement on 
January 23 2019 saying,

    “The United States recognizes Juan Guaidó as the new interim
    President of Venezuela, and strongly supports his courageous
    decision to assume that role pursuant to Article 233 of Venezuela’s
    constitution and supported by the National Assembly, in restoring
    democracy to Venezuela. As President Trump said, “The people of
    Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime
    and demanded freedom and the rule of law.”

On the Colombian front, indications from President Iván Duque have been 
contradictory. Not only did Colombia refuse to censure Almagro’s 
comments, but its ambassador in Washington DC, Francisco Santos has 
insisted that “all options are on the table”. Nevertheless, Duque, in 
contrast with his mentor, Uribe, has said that the military option “is 
not the way.” On the other hand, Duque has called for increasing 
spending on Colombia’s air force and issued an order to put the air 
force on high alert. Following on the heels of Pompeo’s announcement, 
Duque declared his recognition of Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

As mentioned earlier, the disarming of the FARC is a factor we must 

In a 2005 interview (while the FARC still existed as an armed force) 
conducted by Dick Emanuelsson and Ingrid Storgen, political analyst 
Heinz Dieterich makes the following points:

    “There are 20,000 soldiers in the rear guard of an eventual military
    conflict between Colombia and Venezuela…. If these forces were not
    to exist, I am absolutely sure that today we would have the scenario
    that the Sandinistas had on the northern border with Honduras (in
    the 80s)…. Objectively, by its mere existence, they fundamentally
    make impossible whatever strategy of military or paramilitary
    destruction by the forces of the United States or Uribe.”

Similarly, in February 2005, the FARC made exclusively clear their 
position when FARC commander Raúl Reyes declared,

    “In case of an invasion of our Venezuelan brothers by the United
    States War Hawks, the FARC would condemn it energetically and will
    offer its unconditional solidarity to the Bolivarian process of the
    country that saw the birth of our Liberator. In Bolívar we find

Now the FARC are demobilized and Raúl Reyes himself was killed in a camp 
in Ecuador, working out terms for the release of prisoners of war.

With this absence of the FARC, the presence and activity of Colombian 
paramilitaries has grown and intensified. As previously mentioned, on 
August 4 2018, Venezuela’s President Nicholas Maduros was targeted in an 
assassination attempt using drones. Venezuela says it has evidence that 
Colombian paramilitaries were involved. In October 2018, the Venezuelan 
military captured three Colombian paramilitaries in the state of Tachira 
along the border, citing evidence that the paramilitaries were in 
coordination with Colombian police and military. On November 5 2018, at 
least three members of the Venezuelan National Guard were killed in 
confrontations with Colombian paramilitaries in the state of Amazonas. 
On December 24, 2018, Venezuela captured nine Colombian paramilitaries 
entering the country to carry out a “mission in Caracas.” Maduro 
maintains that as many as 734 Venezuelan and Colombian mercenaries are 
preparing to commit false flag operations attacking military units on 
the border in order to escalate and confuse popular opinion, and to 
justify a potential intervention.

Negrón Valera instructs,

    “Finally, we must understand that within the doctrine of
    Non-Conventional Warfare, aggression will not come in the
    traditional army against army form…. It will be the Colombian
    paramilitaries operating on the border, the U.S.’s armed wing in the
    region. Only this time it will have the full logistical and military
    support of Washington and the support of Colombia on the ground.”

Negrón Valera also notes the construction of wells in Colombia by the 
U.S. Army near the border with Venezuela as a possible precursor to 
intervention. He writes that,

    “Let’s turn our attention to the tweet of the Commander of the
    Colombian National Army, Ricardo Gómez Nieto, who in the framework
    of the UNITAS naval exercises, speaks of his gratitude to the U.S.
    Army for its help in the ‘construction of a drinking water well’ in
    the community of Rumonero.

    The same ‘altruistic’ strategy has been used by the US army in
    Afghanistan to consolidate itself in the territory.In any case, the
    important thing to highlight is that it was precisely in this part
    of Guajira that Colombia established in 2015 the Task Force on
    Combined Medium Arms (FUTAM), equipped with armored combat weapons,
    artillery, infantry, logistical support and army aviation. Only by
    looking at the map where the ‘water wells’ are built do we
    understand why Venezuela has a right to be concerned.”

Nevertheless, we must consider that there remain strong arguments that 
military invasion and other forms of intervention are not likely. It 
behooves us to soberly assess both Empire’s voices for and against such 
a war before we jump to any conclusions.

The main argument is that such an invasion or other interventions would 
be far too disruptive not only to their targets, but to all those 
involved. Such efforts would throw the economy into yet further crisis 
and fuel a flood of refugees. A coup or invasion would also likely spur 
a civil war that, in the absence of a strong Venezuelan military 
component, would depend on foreign troops to stabilize. That in and of 
itself would be so offensive to most Venezuelans that, be they 
supporters of the Bolivarian government or not, many would defend their 
national soil on patriotic grounds.

And that underscores the lack of popular backing for the Venezuelan 
opposition. Uruguayan journalist and Telesur cofounder Aram Aharonian 

    “A Hinterlaces poll revealed that more than 64% of Venezuelans have
    an unfavorable opinion about the actions of rightwing leaders….There
    is another fact that stands out in the poll: 62% of Venezuelans
    prefer President Maduro to solve the economic problems of the
    country, while 34% prefer an opposition government. 61% blame
    economic problems on agents external to the government, such as the
    economic war, the fall of the price of oil, price speculation, and
    U.S. financial sanctions, while 37% attribute them to economic
    policies implemented by the government.

    ….However, it is clear that the US hawks may push for intervention:
    we must not let our guard down.”

Another factor that makes military intervention less plausible is the 
reality that the Venezuela military would not resist a military 
intervention alone. There are 1.6 million armed and trained civilian 
militia members ready to take to the streets to fight coup attempts and 
foreign invaders. At the same time, with the failures of the Colombian 
peace process, many former FARC insurgents are returning to the hills to 
join other armed groups and to perhaps form a new insurgency. The 
National Liberation Army (ELN) is still armed and several thousand 
strong. The ELN has claimed responsibility for a January 17 car bombing 
in Bogotá. Would the ELN be a pro-Bolivarian force within Colombia in 
the event of an invasion?

With or without an armed Colombian insurgency, there is a popular 
movement that can be expected to take the streets in Colombia in protest 
to any invasion. Colombia has a very large and well-organized opposition 
that could paralyze its streets with protest, should its people rise up 
to resist this war.

Internationally, countries such as Russia, China, and Cuba could be 
counted on to come to Venezuela’s defense, perhaps even with arms. On 
December 10, 2018, Russia openly sent two nuclear-capable bombers to 
Venezuela. Likewise, Mexico’s newly elected President Manuel Lopez 
Obrador has announced that Mexico will not participate in or support 
destabilization plans toward Venezuela.

When we weigh all the factors, it is not possible to say with any kind 
of certainty that there will be, or that there will not be, a foreign 
military intervention, invasion, or otherwise foreign directed coup in 
Venezuela. But Empire has been waiting a long time and faced failure 
after failure, so patience may be running thin. More, the prize of 
regime change in Venezuela, even with all the disruption and chaos that 
would entail, is that it would existentially threaten popular 
governments and movements throughout Latin America. We must not 
underestimate that temptation.

What is required of all those who stand in solidarity with Venezuela, 
and of all those who oppose Empire and its wars, is this: that we be 
ready for all eventualities on the table, including the military option. 
The best way to end a march toward war is to make sure that war never 
happens. To do that requires those who love peace to mobilize.

/The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect those of the Venezuelanalysis editorial staff./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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