A plan to enter Venezuela by force with heavily armed soldiers was aborted in the end of February, Bloomberg reported.
Around February 23rd, when the push for US humanitarian aid to enter Venezuela was strongest, around 200 exiled soldiers were “checking their weapons and planning to clear the way for the convoy.”
The Colombian government learned late of the plan, but still stopped it in fears of violent clashes at a highly public event that was promised to be peaceful.
The soldiers were led by retired General Cliver Alcala (who in 2011 was sanctioned by the US Treasury for supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and is exiled from Venezuela). Him and the soldiers were supposed to drive back the Venezuelan national guard who were blocking the border.
The possible offensive did not become reality.
“Almost no provisions got in that day and hopes that military commanders would abandon Maduro have so far been dashed. Even though Guaido is back in Caracas, recognized by 50 nations as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, the impromptu taking up of arms shows that the push to remove Maduro — hailed by the U.S. as inevitable — is growing increasingly chaotic and risky.”
The longer the standoff between the Trump Administration and the Maduro government drags on, the higher the risk of a military intervention. US-Proclaimed President Guaido himself hinted at a military coup as an option after the failed attempt to get the humanitarian aid into the country.
“His comments got a cool official reception in Washington, Bogota and Brasilia but Senator Marco Rubio, who has helped shape U.S. policy on Venezuela, seemed to cheer them on. President Donald Trump has said all options remain on the table.”
The Bloomberg article is based on interviews with US and Latin American officials, as well as Venezuelan exiles some of them unnamed.
Retired General Cliver Alcala acknowledged the plan to clear the way for the convoy into Venezuela and said he understood why the Colombian government chose to scrap it. There is no official Colombian comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, the U.S. officials who have driven the Venezuela policy — Rubio, National Security Adviser John Bolton and special envoy Elliott Abrams — continue to put on a brave face, increasing economic and diplomatic pressure and tweeting daily about Maduro’s certain departure.”
The only thing that appears to not become reality is Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s actual departure.
In fact, some plans seem to be falling through – Russia, China and South Africa vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution calling for free and fair new elections and restoration of democracy voted at the UNSC, also when Guaido was in Colombia, its president, Ivan Duque, expressed frustration to him. According to witnesses, Duque complained about Guaido’s failure to bring “tens of thousands” of Venezuelans to the border seeking humanitarian aid.
Guaido was also planning to tour European capitals to build international support, but his US allies told him that he needed to return to Venezuela or that progress would be lost.
“U.S. officials say they worry that Colombia, a vital ally still getting over a decades-long guerrilla war, is especially vulnerable to the ongoing Venezuela crisis. The number of Venezuelan refugees escaping shortages, hyperinflation and hunger is likely to increase from the current 3.4 million to over 5 million if Maduro is still in office at the end of the year, they say. Many will end up in Colombia.”
The US also claimed that drug trafficking is party led by Venezuelan officials and it could stop Colombia’s push against coca cultivation. The impact of the drug trafficking and refugees could also harm Brazil, “which is trying to overcome its own economic and corruption crises.”
No move of a military intervention has been publicly undertaken yet.
“Those who oppose the idea say it’d require tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars in a country twice the size of Iraq with both a standing army and citizen militias. But as the situation deteriorates and as hundreds of soldiers escape to Colombia, debate over targeted military operations continues behind the scenes.”
Hector Schamis, who teaches at Georgetown University and serves as a senior adviser to the secretary general of the Organization of American States said that Venezuela is in a crisis similar to the ones in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s. Both cases ended up in foreign military intervention that wasn’t approved by the UN ending a humanitarian crisis.
“I am saying that the world waited on Bosnia and Kosovo way too long,” Schamis said. “It’s important for Latin American governments to get involved here. We are beyond the Cold War and gunboat diplomacy. This is the biggest refugee crisis in Latin American history. We need to debate all options without prejudice.” He also noted that this was his personal opinion and not the OAS’ or its secretary general Luis Almagro.
Maduro appears to be resilient, an anonymous Latin American diplomat said he learned that from the Cubans.
“Sanctions and international pressure may wind up strengthening his regime, at least in the short term.
“I am stronger than ever,” Maduro said in an impassioned and expletive-laden speech on the day that his security forces stopped the arrival of the aid. He saved some of his harshest words for the Trump administration and called the aid initiative a mere pretext for foreign invasion. “Standing, ruling our homeland, for now, and for many years.”
According to the same Latin American diplomat, the US strategy so far appears to be attempts to cause instability in Venezuela in hopes that the Maduro government or the military loyal to him would make a misstep. Arrested Guaido would have been one such cause for intervention.
“Latin American governments have officially and soundly rejected any such intervention. But several Latin American officials and Venezuelan exiles said both Brazil and Colombia are worried enough that they might be more tempted by a quick military operation that removed Maduro in the coming months if nothing changed.”
Separately, on March 6th, German Ambassador to Venezuela Daniel Kriener was told he was persona non grata and that he had 48 hours to leave Venezuela.
#COMMUNIQUÉ | Venezuela declares persona non grata to the Ambassador of Germany for recurrent acts of interference
— Foreign Affairs 🇻🇪 (@MFAVenezuela) March 7, 2019
Kriener, who assumed the post only last year, was among a group of Western diplomats who greeted Guaido’s arrival at Caracas airport on March 4th. The Foreign Ministry statement added that Venezuela would not accept a foreign diplomat acting “in clear alignment with the conspiracy agenda of extremist sectors of the Venezuelan opposition.”
The German Ambassador described the expulsion as a “threat against Germany” in an interview with German news magazine Spiegel.
The German Foreign Office confirmed the diplomat’s expulsion: “Daniel Kriener has been declared a persona non grata. We are currently coordinating our next steps, also with our partners on the ground,” a spokesperson said.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision to expel Kriener escalated the situation in Venezuela, adding that Germany and Europe continued to support Guaido.
FM @HeikoMaas on Ambassador Kriener being declared persona non grata in 🇻🇪: Incomprehensible decision which will further escalate the situation. I have decided to call our Ambassador back to Berlin for consultations.
— GermanForeignOffice (@GermanyDiplo) March 6, 2019
“This is an incomprehensible decision that aggravates the situation and does not contribute to de-escalation,” Maas said in a statement. “Our, Europe’s, support for Juan Guaido is unbroken. Ambassador Kriener is doing excellent work in Caracas, including in recent days.”
El embajador Daniel Kriener estuvo hoy en el aeropuerto de Maiquetía junto a otros representantes de países de la UE. Que el regreso al país por parte de Juan Guaidó se llevara a cabo, fue un paso hacia un proceso político y pacífico para la superación de la crisis venezolana. pic.twitter.com/i6ao2O49Q6
— Embajada Alemana VEN (@AlemaniaVzla) March 5, 2019
The German Embassy said on its Twitter account on Monday that Kriener hoped Guaido’s return “was a step towards a peaceful and political process to overcome the Venezuelan crisis.”
Also, Cody Weddle, a US freelance journalist with legal residence in Venezuela was arrested along with his Venezuelan assistant on March 6th. This arrest, according to the NYT, is part “an expanding crackdown on press freedom amid the country’s long-running political crisis.”
Weddle is to deported back to the US. If this is, in fact, a crackdown on press freedom, the Venezuelan approach appears to be much more harmless than, for example, the Saudi Arabian one, and the Trump Administration strongly supports the Kingdom’s government and Crown Prince.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Venezuelan Army Exiles Reportedly Abandoned Plan To Enter Country By Force Last Month
- “Let’s be very clear. The military is involved”: Retired US Army General On Regime Change Attempt In Venezuela
- Guaido Returns To Venezuela, Announces That Maduro Government Will Face More Sanctions