US: Russian Military in Venezuela Seen as Threat to Peace
The White House is again warning nations, including Russia, to not send military resources to Venezuela, while condemning disputed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s “continued use of foreign military personnel in his attempt to remain in power.”
National Security Adviser John Bolton made the statement Friday, two days after U.S. President Donald Trump said Russia “has to get out” of Venezuela, and following the recent arrival of Russian military personnel in Venezuela, where Maduro is locked in a power struggle with opposition leader and self-declared interim president Juan Guaido.
“Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela’s economy; and endanger regional stability,” Bolton said. “We call on the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela.”
The White House national security adviser also said the United States “strongly” cautions actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela or elsewhere in the hemisphere, with the intent of establishing military operations. The statement says any such actions would be viewed as a “direct threat” to regional security.
Guaido: Medical support coming
Meanwhile, Guaido announced Friday that “important medical support” would be arriving in the resources-starved country “in the coming hours.” He did not provide details.
Guaido in February tried to deliver aid to Venezuelans, staging the deliveries in Colombia and Brazil. But Maduro called the efforts an attempted invasion by the United States. Security forces refused the supplies and clashed with protesters at the borders.
The Maduro government says it has stripped Guaido of the right to hold public office for 15 years, but Guaido has said his movement will “continue in the streets.”
On Wednesday, Trump told a reporter several times, “All options are open,” in response to a question about whether the United States is willing to put “boots on the ground” to remove the Russians. Trump added that Moscow is well aware of the U.S. stance.
Two Russian air force planes landed outside Caracas last Saturday and were believed to be carrying Russian military personnel and equipment.
Russia says it has sent specialists to Venezuela through a military cooperation agreement but that they are no threat to regional security. China, too, is allied with the Maduro government.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to reporters Wednesday at the White House, alongside Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared interim President Juan Guaido.
“The United States views Russia’s arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation,” Pence said alongside Rosales in the Roosevelt Room. “We call on Russia today to cease all support of the Maduro regime and stand with Juan Guaido, stand with nations across this hemisphere and across the world until freedom is restored.”
Russia rejected the U.S. declaration, saying its actions in Venezuela were lawful and agreed with the South American nation’s legitimate government, the RIA news agency reported. The Kremlin declined to comment on reports it has deployed Russian servicemen to Venezuela.
The United States, along with dozens of other countries, have recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president, while Russia has backed Maduro. Guaido, in Venezuela on Wednesday, called on supporters to protest Saturday against nationwide power outages.
Maduro’s cabinet ministers have accused the United States of sabotaging the electrical power grid, including a cyberattack on Venezuela’s main hydroelectric dam.