President Nicolas Maduro told the AP that his foreign minister recently held secret talks in New York with the U.S. special envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams, even as the Trump administration was publicly backing an effort to unseat the Venezuelan president.
The Trump administration announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company to try to force President Maduro to step down, the Washington Post reports.
Jonathan Swan: “The Trump administration is trying to use economic and diplomatic pressure to push for regime change in Venezuela. The White House is hoping that if they deprive Maduro of cash the Venezuelan military will have no reason to stay loyal to him.”
New York Times: “Administration officials indicated that Mr. Trump was still not ruling out military intervention in his efforts to pressure Mr. Maduro to step down.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told Axios “that as recently as a couple of weeks ago Trump mused to him about the possibility of using military force in Venezuela, where the U.S. government is currently pushing for regime change using diplomatic and economic pressures.”
Graham, recalling his conversation with Trump a couple weeks ago, said: “He said, ‘What do you think about using military force?’ and I said, ‘Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m surprised, you want to invade everybody.'”
Graham laughed: “I don’t want to invade everybody, I only want to use the military when our national security interests are threatened.”
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela “faced the most direct challenge to his power Wednesday, when an opposition leader swore himself in as the nation’s legitimate president, cheered on by tens of thousands of supporters and a growing number of governments, including the Trump administration,” the New York Times reports.
“The fast-moving developments convulsing the impoverished country appeared to give momentum to the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, a 35-year-old politician who stepped onto the national stage just recently.”
“But Mr. Maduro dismissed the move, derisively calling it an American-led plot to overthrow him. He said he was cutting all remaining diplomatic relations with the United States.”
Washington Post: “The dramatic developments came as anti-Maduro protests drew hundreds of thousands of people into Venezuelan streets.”
“The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro,” the New York Times reports.
“Establishing a clandestine channel with coup plotters in Venezuela was a big gamble for Washington, given its long history of covert intervention across Latin America. Many in the region still deeply resent the United States for backing previous rebellions, coups and plots in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile, and for turning a blind eye to the abuses military regimes committed during the Cold War.”
Associated Press: “As a meeting last August in the Oval Office to discuss sanctions on Venezuela was concluding, President Trump turned to his top aides and asked an unsettling question: With a fast unraveling Venezuela threatening regional security, why can’t the U.S. just simply invade the troubled country?”
“The suggestion stunned those present at the meeting, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster, both of whom have since left the administration… McMaster and others took turns explaining to Trump how military action could backfire and risk losing hard-won support among Latin American governments to punish President Nicolas Maduro for taking Venezuela down the path of dictatorship.”
“But Trump pushed back. Although he gave no indication he was about to order up military plans, he pointed to what he considered past cases of successful gunboat diplomacy in the region, according to the official, like the invasions of Panama and Grenada in the 1980s.”
“Venezuela appears to be sliding toward a more volatile stage of unrest after anti-government forces looted weapons during a weekend raid on a military base and frustration over what some see as an ineffectual opposition leadership boils over,” Reuters reports.
“Last week’s installation of an all-powerful new legislative body run by leftist President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party loyalists, despite massive protests and a global outcry, has left many Venezuelans feeling there are no more democratic options to oppose the government.”
“Venezuelans have been thrust into a new round of political turbulence after the government-stacked Supreme Court gutted congress of its last vestiges of power, drawing widespread condemnation from foreign governments and sparking protests in the capital,” the AP reports.
“Governments across Latin America condemned the power grab on Thursday and Friday, with the head of the Organization of American States likening it to a ‘self-inflicted coup’ by socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s ‘regime’ against the opposition-controlled congress.”
Luis Manuel Diaz, a regional opposition leader in Venezuela, “has been shot dead at a campaign rally less than two weeks before parliamentary elections,” the BBC reports.