[News] Washington Doubles Down on its Military Intervention Script in Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jun 4 12:28:33 EDT 2019


https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/14521


  Washington Doubles Down on its Military Intervention Script in Venezuela

By Patrick Leet – NACLA - June 3, 2019
------------------------------------------------------------------------

“These [Trump administration] guys are so desperate for a win—and with 
so much testosterone in their veins, I am really worried they are going 
to do something really stupid.”

No, this isn't about Iran. That was Fulton Armstrong, a former senior 
Latin American analyst with the CIA and currently faculty member at 
American University, assessing the Trump administration’s approach to 
Venezuela in a May 3 article in The Guardian 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/03/venezuela-protests-news-latest-maduro-uprising-that-fizzled->.

With the dust now settled after the recent failed coup in Venezuela, 
Washington's high hopes of regime change “from within” have not 
materialized. For the last few months, U.S. strategy in Venezuela has 
hitched its cart to Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed “president” of 
Venezuela. His political destiny has depended on U.S. strategy, and vice 
versa. With Venezuela's opposition and their newest leader losing force, 
and U.S. President Trump showing signs of frustration 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-frustrated-trump-questions-his-administrations-venezuela-strategy/2019/05/08/ad51561a-71a7-11e9-9f06-5fc2ee80027a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.991e0a322975>, 
hardline elements are more emboldened.

On May 9, Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) tweeted 
<https://www.diariolasamericas.com/eeuu/jefe-del-comando-sur-dice-estar-listo-apoyar-militares-que-respalden-guaido-n4177142> that 
he was awaiting an invitation from Guaidó to discuss further 
cooperation. Two days later, Washington’s “man in Caracas” instructed 
his representative in Washington to meet with U.S. SOUTHCOM, requesting 
help with “strategic planning 
<https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/13/venezuela-news-latest-guaido-us-military-help-maduro>.” 
The meeting on May 20 produced seemingly little, but this back-and-forth 
is a dangerous precedent, as fringe elements in Washington and Caracas 
are increasingly defining their policy approach in military terms.

Though Guaidó has become a major component of U.S. strategy in 
Venezuela, his promises have proven greater than his capabilities and 
actual political sway in the country. Once again 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/08/world/americas/nicolas-maduro-venezuela-military.html>_,_ the 
highly-touted split in the Venezuelan military did not become reality 
during the coup he led on April 30. Perhaps stating the obvious, Guaidó 
told the /Washington Pos/t on May 4 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/need-more-soldiers-venezuelas-guaido-says-opposition-overestimated-military-support-before-failed-uprising/2019/05/04/72561cb8-6e8b-11e9-bbe7-1c798fb80536_story.html?utm_term=.66f1edfd6668> that 
the opposition had overestimated military support for the coup attempt.

Putting it bluntly, well known anti-Maduro /CNN en Español/ journalist 
Fernando Rincón recently asked Guaidó, twice, about accusations that the 
Venezuelan opposition was "inept 
<https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/video/juan-guaido-venezuela-crisis-opciones-intervencion-entrevista-fernando-del-rincon-conclu/>." 
<https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/video/juan-guaido-venezuela-crisis-opciones-intervencion-entrevista-fernando-del-rincon-conclu/> Other 
opposition opinion makers 
<https://noticiaaldia.com/2019/05/vladimir-villegas-a-guaido-vamos-bien-ni-de-vaina/> have 
reflected similar sentiments.

What was once presented to Trump as a quick-fix regime change has proven 
much more difficult. Recently calling Venezuelan President Nicolás 
Maduro a "tough cookie" 
<https://www.newsweek.com/trump-venezuela-maduro-tough-cookie-guaido-1420678>, 
the U.S. president has expressed frustration, even questioning his own 
administration’s strategy. This has provoked yet another return to the 
drawing board in Washington, in a year filled with roller-coaster 
moments in Venezuela.

On January 23, Venezuelans in Miami were “jubilant” as Guaidó swore 
himself in as self-declared president in front of tens of thousands 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/01/23/venezuela-juan-guaido-declares-himself-president-amid-protests/2658642002/> of 
opposition supporters. The second-string politician was then catapulted 
into international stardom as the leader of a U.S.-backed attempted 
soft-coup, Washington’s new modality of changing unfriendly Latin 
American governments. U.S. allies across Latin America immediately 
backed Guaidó, with most U.S. allies in Europe following suit, albeit 
with somewhat more caution. Most of the rest of the countries of the 
world continue supporting the current Venezuelan government.

With Washington's no-turning-back support, at a February 12 march Guaidó 
announced that humanitarian aid would enter the country "one way or 
another." 
<https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/21/americas/venezuela-aid-power-struggle-intl/index.html> In 
a made for TV public relations spectacle, the star-studded rock concert 
<https://peru21.pe/mundo/aid-live-venezuela-vivo-sigue-concierto-pro-ayuda-humanitaria-cucuta-video-461493> on 
the Colombian-Venezuelan border on February 23 was the would-be point of 
entry for the Trojan Horse of U.S. “humanitarian aid.” But that aid 
wasn’t to be, as Venezuela didn’t permit such a clear violation of their 
national sovereignty.

With members of Trump's cabinet in photo-ops alongside the highly 
politicized 
<https://fair.org/home/western-media-fall-in-lockstep-for-cheap-trump-rubio-venezuela-aid-pr-stunt/> humanitarian 
aid efforts, not to mention visits across Latin America to discuss 
Venezuela, there has been clear coordination between Washington and the 
Venezuelan opposition pushing to unseat Maduro.

*Ratcheting up Regime Change Strategy*

Pots and pans banged loudly in opposition strongholds in Caracas when 
blackouts spread across the city in March, but regime change plotters 
were beginning to acknowledge that there was "more needed" 
<http://elestimulo.com/blog/los-60-dias-de-juan-guaido/> to continue 
momentum. The April 30 attempted military coup would be a make-or-break 
moment.

Guaidó had billed the opposition march the next day on May 1 as "the 
largest march in the history of the country 
<https://www.excelsior.com.mx/global/convoca-guaido-a-marcha-mas-grande-de-la-historia/1310476>." 
<https://www.excelsior.com.mx/global/convoca-guaido-a-marcha-mas-grande-de-la-historia/1310476> However, 
fewer showed up compared to his earlier rallies. Independent journalist 
Michael Fox reported from the scene that “a block away it was empty” 
saying it was “nothing in comparison” to earlier marches. (His reporting 
<https://www.thenation.com/article/venezuela-coup-media-guaido/> also 
helped clarify that that the “takeover” on the morning of the coup was 
of an overpass near a military base, and not the actual military base, 
as CNN and the/ N/ 
<https://www.salon.com/2019/05/08/failed-venezuela-coup-was-fake-news-designed-to-fool-people-in-two-nations/>/ew 
/ 
<https://www.salon.com/2019/05/08/failed-venezuela-coup-was-fake-news-designed-to-fool-people-in-two-nations/>/Y/ 
<https://www.salon.com/2019/05/08/failed-venezuela-coup-was-fake-news-designed-to-fool-people-in-two-nations/>/ork/ 
<https://www.salon.com/2019/05/08/failed-venezuela-coup-was-fake-news-designed-to-fool-people-in-two-nations/>/ Times/ 
<https://www.salon.com/2019/05/08/failed-venezuela-coup-was-fake-news-designed-to-fool-people-in-two-nations/> had 
claimed.)

Guaidó called for a post-coup general strike 
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w172wx8lftrcgpd> that also fell flat, 
with storefronts across Caracas open and no reports on participation 
numbers.

Again, on May 11 international observers described the “low turnout” at 
a march to support Guaidó and the National Assembly, with between and 1 
<https://nypost.com/2019/05/11/mick-jaggers-ex-vanessa-neumann-hired-as-envoy-in-venezuelan-uprising/>, 
<https://nypost.com/2019/05/11/mick-jaggers-ex-vanessa-neumann-hired-as-envoy-in-venezuelan-uprising/>000 
<https://nypost.com/2019/05/11/mick-jaggers-ex-vanessa-neumann-hired-as-envoy-in-venezuelan-uprising/> and 
2 
<https://www.t13.cl/noticia/mundo/baja-asistencia-ultima-marcha-convocada-guaido>, 
<https://www.t13.cl/noticia/mundo/baja-asistencia-ultima-marcha-convocada-guaido>000 
<https://www.t13.cl/noticia/mundo/baja-asistencia-ultima-marcha-convocada-guaido> participants—a 
"far cry" 
<https://nypost.com/2019/05/11/mick-jaggers-ex-vanessa-neumann-hired-as-envoy-in-venezuelan-uprising/> from 
the opposition's street-heat earlier this year. According to the /New 
York Times/, the coup attempt left the Venezuelan opposition “weaker 
than before 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/opinion/venezuela-maduro-guaido.html>." 
<https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/opinion/venezuela-maduro-guaido.html> The 
Venezuelan opposition has not called any further marches.

With a worn out and worn down Venezuelan opposition and a general sense 
of Guaidó buyer’s remorse, Washington doubled down on its aggressive, 
unilateral strategy. Despite the failed coup, or perhaps because of it, 
members of the Trump administration have been ratcheting up the 
rhetoric. The military option has been mentioned more frequently, 
although Trump has suggested that perhaps members of his cabinet are 
overplaying their hand 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-frustrated-trump-questions-his-administrations-venezuela-strategy/2019/05/08/ad51561a-71a7-11e9-9f06-5fc2ee80027a_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.991e0a322975>.

Trump officials seem to be on a crusade to find new legitimate-enough 
justification for a U.S. military adventure. With Trump's policy of 
family separation and caging of immigrant children in the U.S., its 
“humanitarian concern” is entirely without merit.

The groundwork for making such justifications was laid back in 2015, 
when the Obama administration passed a presidential decree declaring the 
South American nation an "unusual and extraordinary threat" 
<https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/extraordinary-threat-u-s-brands-venezuela-emergency-n319996> to 
U.S. national security. This move opened the legal, political and 
military door much further, allowing hardline elements in Washington to 
maneuver more with greater legitimacy. Whether the justification du-jour 
is “national security”, democracy-promotion, humanitarian aid, or other, 
the legal and political precedent was in place for harsh sanctions and 
direct military involvement.

Not surprisingly, radical elements of the Trump Administration have 
taken advantage of this, with intensified talk and increasing mentions 
of the “military option.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo 
<https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/03/politics/trump-caution-bolton-venezuela/index.html>has 
said, “Military action is possible. If that's what's required, that's 
what the United States will do.” U.S. National Security Advisor John 
Bolton has also said military action in Venezuela is “possible 
<https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/01/politics/mike-pompeo-venezuela-military-action/index.html>.” 
<https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/01/politics/mike-pompeo-venezuela-military-action/index.html>

Almost every member of Trump's cabinet has tried to paint Venezuela as 
something of a beachhead in Latin America for U.S. government 
adversaries, from Russia and China to Cuba and Iran. Bolton recently 
stated that the Monroe Doctrine 
<https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/05/11/john-bolton-and-the-monroe-doctrine> is 
“alive and well,” embracing the offensive neo-colonial role of the U.S. 
in Latin America. Pompeo and Bolton have shown “concern” for threats to 
Venezuelan sovereignty due to Chinese investment or the Russians taking 
over a country in the Western Hemisphere 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/05/03/donald-trump-putin-not-meddling-venezuela-contradicts-pompeo-bolton/1090693001/>.

The “all the options on the table” mantra doesn't mean consensus on all 
options. The Bolton-Pompeo extremist tendency, bolstered by the U.S. 
SOUTHCOM has recently clashed 
<https://www.businessinsider.com/paul-selva-john-bolton-aides-meeting-venezuela-2019-5> even 
with the Pentagon. Trump has mentioned in jest that Bolton wants to get 
him "into a war" 
<https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-venezuela-war-john-bolton-maduro-guaido-us-coup-a8905906.html> with 
Venezuela. Trump has felt as though Bolton and Pompeo are getting "way 
out ahead of themselves 
<https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/vb97k3/even-trump-thinks-john-bolton-is-too-hawkish-on-iran>" 
as well when it comes to Iran. He has also said that Putin is "not 
looking at all to get involved in Venezuela 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/05/03/donald-trump-putin-not-meddling-venezuela-contradicts-pompeo-bolton/1090693001/>." 
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/05/03/donald-trump-putin-not-meddling-venezuela-contradicts-pompeo-bolton/1090693001/>

*A Twist in the Plot*

In addition to the U.S. SOUTHCOM talks, Guaidó has begrudgingly agreed 
to negotiations in Norway 
<https://www.france24.com/en/20190516-venezuelas-guaido-confirms-norway-mediation-effort> between 
his representatives and a Venezuelan government envoy, aimed at a 
diplomatic defusing. With his street support at home drying up and in 
Washington’s doghouse, Guaidó has been trying to keep his political boat 
afloat elsewhere. The talks in Norway would seem to be the only process 
that actually brings together the Venezuelan government and the 
Venezuelan opposition, leaving Washington out in the cold.

There is also Russia. A Venezuelan ally, Russia has been very critical 
of Washington's role. Paradoxically, a critical Putin is one of the few 
people that would seem to have Trump's ear, and could be a determining 
factor in helping put the brakes on the Washington hardliners.

Does Cuba have a part to play? The Lima Group, an organization of 
U.S.-allied countries in Latin America, interestingly suggested the 
Venezuelan ally as a possible mediator. While Havana is open to 
mediating 
<https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-canada-venezuela-idUSKCN1SM261> talks, 
the suggestion runs contrary to Washington's increasing hostility 
<http://www.periodico26.cu/index.php/en/cuba-news/item/15460-us-intensifies-hostility-against-cuba-by-announcing-new-measures-tweet> towards 
Cuba.

Back in Washington, as the few fringe elements continue pounding their 
war drums, with many questions remaining.

Will the U.S. government recognize and respect negotiations between 
Venezuelans in Norway, perhaps the negotiated option that comes closest 
to respecting Venezuelan sovereignty? Or will John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, 
the U.S. SOUTHCOM, and the small group of extremists in the Trump 
administration sway the decision-making? In a recent interview, the head 
of the U.S. SOUTHCOM, Craig Faller, said his troops were "on the balls 
of their feet." 
<https://www.businessinsider.com/us-military-on-the-balls-of-its-feet-to-respond-to-crisis-in-venezuela-2019-5> Bolton 
responded: "That's the attitude we need." 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/venezuelas-opposition-put-together-a-serious-plan-for-now-it-appears-to-have-failed/2019/05/01/7df68fe0-6c19-11e9-be3a-33217240a539_story.html?utm_term=.78730c6a49da> So 
far, the Trump administration, just like Obama before him, has been 
drastically out of touch, continuing the Monroe Doctrine legacy, as 
Bolton so clearly stated.

While the most radical tendencies in Washington and Caracas flirt with a 
military option, the vast majority of Venezuelans don 
<https://therealnews.com/stories/guaido-calls-for-us-military-cooperation-but-few-venezuelans-support-the-move>' 
<https://therealnews.com/stories/guaido-calls-for-us-military-cooperation-but-few-venezuelans-support-the-move>t 
<https://therealnews.com/stories/guaido-calls-for-us-military-cooperation-but-few-venezuelans-support-the-move>support 
<https://therealnews.com/stories/guaido-calls-for-us-military-cooperation-but-few-venezuelans-support-the-move> a 
U.S. military intervention in their country.

Reinaldo Iturriza, a researcher at Venezuela´s National Center for 
Historical Studies, reflects on who is defining U.S. policy right now: 
“When Trump is in meetings with the members of his cabinet most active 
on Venezuela…when a character such as Trump needs to caution these 
people, that they should stop talking publicly about military 
intervention…it is very hard to be to the right of Trump. These are the 
people that are talking about Venezuela these days.”

/Patrick Leet is an independent journalist and professor in the 
Political Studies program at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela./

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

-- 
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