World: Venezuelan officials: Aid tests military's loyalty to Maduro - PressFrom - US
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WorldVenezuelan officials: Aid tests military's loyalty to Maduro

20:25  11 february  2019
20:25  11 february  2019 Source:   cbsnews.com

Exclusive: U.S. in direct contact with Venezuelan military, urging defections - source

Exclusive: U.S. in direct contact with Venezuelan military, urging defections - source The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela's military urging them to abandon leader Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

Washington — Representatives of National Assembly President Juan Guaidó, who has been recognized by the U.S. and more than four dozen countries as Venezuela's legitimate leader, believe the humanitarian aid being dispatched to the crisis-stricken South American nation will test the Venezuelan military's loyalty for President Nicolás Maduro.

As shipping containers block the main highways near the border with neighboring Colombia, two of Guaidó's top diplomats told CBS News the nation's armed forces will soon face a critical choice: enforce Maduro's orders to stop international humanitarian assistance — or defect and allow the aid to reach a Venezuelan population grappling with widespread food and medicine shortages.

Venezuela's Maduro says Guaido will have to answer before courts

Venezuela's Maduro says Guaido will have to answer before courts Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threatened opposition leader Juan Guaido with facing the courts "sooner or later" for violating the constitution by anointing himself legitimate head-of-state, according to an interview published on Wednesday. Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro's re-election last year was a sham. Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido, but Maduro retains control of state institutions including the military.

"This will be a key moment for the military to see which side they will be on," Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó's ambassador to the U.S., told CBS News. "If they will be with the Maduro regime, which is not going anywhere … or if they will stay with the Venezuelans who need that food and medicine."

Along with recognizing Guaidó as Venezuela's interim president and issuing sweeping sanctions against the largest state-owned oil company, the Trump administration has pledged more than $20 million in humanitarian assistance to the Venezuelan people. Food, hygiene kits and emergency medical supplies shipped by different countries are being staged in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta.

But Maduro, who has managed to maintain a tight grip on Venezuela's armed forces, adamantly opposes assistance from nations that support Guaidó, who has called for Maduro's ouster and free elections. He has consistently blamed the U.S. and its allies in the region of "manufacturing" a humanitarian crisis in his country and warned against American military intervention, which he has said would lead to a conflict worse than the Vietnam War. Last week, Maduro even launched an anti-aid campaign on social media and denounced the humanitarian assistance as a "poison of humiliation."

US ready to waive sanctions on Venezuela officers backing Guaido

US ready to waive sanctions on Venezuela officers backing Guaido Washington is prepared to exempt Venezuelan military leaders from punitive sanctions if they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American nation's interim leader, President Donald Trump's national security advisor said Wednesday. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); "The U.S. will consider sanctions off-ramps for any Venezuelan senior military officer that stands for democracy and recognizes the constitutional government of President Juan Guaido," John Bolton said on Twitter.

Venezuelan officials: Aid tests military's loyalty to Maduro© MARCO BELLO / REUTERS A child wearing a U.S. flag attends a gathering of Venezuelan doctors at the entrance of a warehouse where humanitarian aid for Venezuela is being stored near the Tienditas cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta

"It is an incredible thing that you have a president who has not created the conditions in order for the people to eat and to have the drugs they need when they're ill, but he doesn't accept the foreign aid," Gustavo Tarre, Guaidó's representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), told CBS News. "An acceptation of a crisis is an acceptation of a failure of government."

Tarre said he believes Maduro is afraid allowing the aid into Venezuela will make him look weak. The critical moment, he added, will come if and when supplies start flowing across the border. High-ranking military officials will have to decide whether to follow orders or allow the desperately-needed supplies to enter the country.

Trump: Military intervention in Venezuela an 'option'

Trump: Military intervention in Venezuela an 'option' President Trump in an interview broadcast Sunday said U.S. military intervention in crisis-torn Venezuela is an "option." "Well I don't want to say that," he told host Margaret Brennan on CBS's "Face the Nation" when asked about military intervention and any national security interest. "But certainly it's something that's on the - it's an option," he added. The also said Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro requested a meeting "a number of months ago" and Trump turned it down.

"If they are the normal guards, I'm sure they won't open fire, but if they have the people motivated by the government, that's the risk," Tarre said. "But we still think that if you have hundreds of thousands of people behind waiting for food … they are going to allow the trucks to pass."

Oil-rich Venezuela was once considered one of Latin America's wealthiest nations. But under Maduro — who in 2013 replaced the late Hugo Chavez, another leftist firebrand accused of consolidating power — economic turmoil, skyrocketing inflation, food and medicine shortages, mounting crime and government corruption have plunged the country deep into a socio-political crisis.

To stifle discontent over the floundering economy, weakened further by international sanctions and plummeting oil production, Maduro has resorted to political oppression and reportedly, even torture. Recent elections in the country have been denounced by United States and the international community as unfair and rigged.

The dire situation has prompted more than 2.3 million Venezuelans to flee the country since 2014 — an exodus Human Rights Watch called "the largest migration crisis of its kind in recent Latin American history." More than one million Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, hundreds of thousands to Peru, Ecuador and other countries in the region and more than 72,000 have come to the U.S.

With many poor Venezuelans going hungry, Guaidó is hoping the international humanitarian aid he has enthusiastically welcomed erodes pro-government loyalty in working-class neighborhoods, which have historically been bastions of support for Maduro's socialist agenda.

The State Department's special representative to Venezuela Elliot Abrams said "it's probably correct" that the military "could prevent international aid from reaching Venezuela."

"That would be a really tragic situation," he added. "And we are hopeful that that won't happen."

Pence speaks to cheering Venezuelan exiles in Miami.
In an area of greater Miami known as "Doral-zuela" due to its vibrant Venezuelan community, Vice President Mike Pence rallied support Friday for opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The United States has recognized Guaidó as the legitimate president in Venezuela over the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro that has been in power for two decades. "Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no claim to power," Pence said about the head of the South American government who has been at the center of the recent political and economic maelstrom. "And Nicolas Maduro must go.

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