Trump quietly amasses military forces near Venezuela

DAILY SABAH WITH WIRES
ISTANBUL
Published 16.02.2019 00:04

A potential military intervention in Venezuela is apparently on the U.S. agenda, with significant U.S. naval and marine presence reportedly operating in proximity to Colombia, threatening invasion.

In a "Declaration of the Revolutionary Government" released by the Cuban government, a key backer of President Nicolas Maduro, the U.S. was accused of planning to intervene in Venezuela using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis, claiming recent events in the country amounted to an attempted coup that had so far failed.

"Between Feb. 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations," the declaration alleged. "These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions," it said.

In addition, deployment readiness of U.S. military forces to Colombia has stirred further concerns over a possible U.S. intervention. The latest reports suggested that U.S. Navy vessels are quietly moving closer to Venezuela as they are approximately 5-7 days' sailing time from Colombian waters, just over 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the Venezuelan border.

U.S. President Donald Trump reaffirmed earlier this month that military intervention in Venezuela was "an option." The Venezuelan leader began a second six-year term on Jan. 10, having won elections in May that were boycotted by the opposition and rejected by 12 Latin American nations, including Colombia and Brazil.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has largely taken the lead within the Trump administration in condemning Maduro. He called the inauguration a sham and made clear the United States did not recognize the election result.

Maduro repeated his frequent warning that a U.S. invasion is imminent. He accused U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton of overseeing a plot to replace him with a dictator. He alleged that Washington is using "dirty dollars, bled from the U.S. empire" to train 734 mercenaries in neighboring Colombia to carry out the plot.

Meanwhile, President Maduro revealed in an Associated Press (AP) interview that his government held secret talks with the Trump administration. At turns conciliatory and combative, Maduro said all Venezuela needs to rebound is for Trump to remove his "infected hand" from the country that sits atop the world's largest petroleum reserves.

He also cited the continued support of China and especially Russia, which has been a major supplier of loans, weapons and oil investment over the years. He said that the antagonistic views taken by Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin runs the risk of converting the current crisis into a high-risk geopolitical fight between the U.S. and Russia that recalls some of the most dangerous brinkmanship of the Cold War.

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