US says military action 'possible' in Venezuela as Kremlin is told to stop meddling

Donald Trump’s administration has warned Russia to stop meddling in Venezuela and talked up the chance of US military action as a second day of clashes between protesters and security forces played out. 

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, said that military involvement of some form is “possible” as he accused the Kremlin of convincing embattled president Nicolas Maduro to remain in post on Tuesday. 

John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, raised the possibility of fresh sanctions as he told Russia publicly that it had no business getting involved in the Venezuelan dispute. 

“This is our hemisphere. It’s not where the Russians should be interfering. This was a mistake on their part,” Mr Bolton said. 

The Kremlin, which is backing Mr Maduro, in turn accused America of being behind an attempted “coup”, calling Washington’s actions a “gross violation of international law”.

The US-Russia tensions flared as Juan Guaido, the 35-year-old opposition leader who declared himself interim president in January, once again took to the streets after urging a military uprising, despite violence leaving dozens injured the day before. 

Members of the Bolivarian National Guard who joined Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido fire into the air to repel forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro - Credit: AFPMembers of the Bolivarian National Guard who joined Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido fire into the air to repel forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro - Credit: AFP
Members of the Bolivarian National Guard who joined Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaido fire into the air to repel forces loyal to President Nicolas Maduro Credit: AFP

In Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, national guardsmen loyal to Mr Maduro roamed on motorcycles to control the demonstrations while tear gas was again used on the crowds.

Mr Guaido had called for the biggest protests in the country’s history.  Supporters of Mr Maduro, the 56-year-old socialist leader, took to the streets as well.

Mr Maduro was due to attend a rally and vowed that military figures who turned on him would not go “unpunished”. 

Tuesday’s calls by Mr Guaido for a military uprising had failed to topple Mr Maduro immediately and there were signs that some of those involved were seeking protection. 

Leopoldo Lopez, a well known opposition politician who escaped his house arrest and appeared in public on Tuesday, took refuge in the Spanish embassy. At least 25 Venezuelan troops have also applied for asylum in the Brazilian embassy.

Maduro appears flanked by Venezuela's Defence Minister and two top military commanders in a photo released on Tuesday by the Miraflores Press OfficeMaduro appears flanked by Venezuela's Defence Minister and two top military commanders in a photo released on Tuesday by the Miraflores Press Office
Maduro appears flanked by Venezuela’s Defence Minister and two top military commanders in a photo released on Tuesday by the Miraflores Press Office

Tensions have been mounting between the US, one of more than 50 countries backing Mr Guaido’s claim to power, and Russia and Cuba, who support Mr Maduro and have been accused of propping him up. 

Mr Maduro denied a claim by Mr Pompeo that he was due to flee the country on Tuesday only to be convinced otherwise by the Russians. “Mr Pompeo, please, what lack of seriousness,” he said.

The Russian foreign ministry also issued a denial, with spokesman Maria Zakharova calling it “absolute disinformation and fake news”. 

Mr Pompeo doubled down on the Trump administration’s instance for months that all options were on the table when it comes to US military action in Venezuela.

“The president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. Military action is possible. If that’s what’s required, that’s what the United States will do,” Mr Pompeo told Fox Business Network.

An opposition demonstrator walks near a bus in flames during clashes with soldiers loyal to Maduro - Credit: AFPAn opposition demonstrator walks near a bus in flames during clashes with soldiers loyal to Maduro - Credit: AFP
An opposition demonstrator walks near a bus in flames during clashes with soldiers loyal to Maduro Credit: AFP

 

He later talked to Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and urged the Kremlin to stop its “destabilising” actions, according to the State Department.

Mr Lavrov in turn called US actions illegal, according to a read out from the Russian foreign ministry, and warned “the continuation of aggressive steps is fraught with the most serious consequences”. 

With the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro claiming a “crack” in the Venezuelan military had been revealed but Mr Maduro himself insisting commanders remained loyal, the Venezuelan president’s chances of staying in office remain unclear. 

But some are predicting he could yet retain power. Sergio Gúzman, a Bogota based political risk analyst, told The Telegraph: “I think the moment has gone for Guaido. Maduro may have lost some military support but the opposition is losing momentum at a greater rate.”

Related posts

Leave a Comment