The U.S. military is readying plans to help Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó if he succeeds in replacing Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. On Wednesday, according to The Washington Examiner, Adm. Craig Faller, head of U.S. Southern Command, told the House Armed Services Committee that it is inevitable that Guaidó will supplant Maduro, saying, ‘”There is going to be a day when the legitimate government takes over, and it’s going to come when we least expect it. And it could be right now, so we are calling it ‘day now’ planning.”
Faller added that in the last 12 months, the average Venezuelan has lost 20 pounds and 90% of the citizenry is malnourished. He also accused Cuba, Russia, and to a lesser degree China of being responsible for the desperate situation in Venezuela. Faller said Russia was aiding Maduro with financial loans, technical support and rhetoric. On Tuesday, national security adviser John Bolton said up to 25,000 Cuban security forces are operating in Venezuela. Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan told members of the House, “We’ve got the Cubans there, the Russians, the Chinese. Many dimensions … this is not a timetable we control. To the degree we can respond, alter our tactics and take advantage of the situation, we will.”
Speaking on Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted, “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.”
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated:
The president has made it clear that all options are on the table. The situation is a little bit unclear today from our perspective between Maduro and Guaido — Guaido being the legitimate member of the government. We’re doing what we can now to collect intelligence to make sure we have good visibility on what’s happening down in Venezuela and be prepared to support the president should he require more from the U.S. military.
After Pompeo spoke, Army Col. Amanda Azubuike, a spokesman for Faller, stated, “Our leadership has been very clear that all options are on the table, although a peaceful transition to democracy in Venezuela is preferred. At the same time, Adm. Faller has said on numerous occasions we remain ready ‘on the balls of our feet’ should we get the call.”
On Tuesday President Trump tweeted, “If Cuban Troops and Militia do not immediately CEASE military and other operations for the purpose of causing death and destruction to the Constitution of Venezuela, a full and complete … embargo, together with highest-level sanctions, will be placed on the island of Cuba.”
The UN Refugee Agency reported in mid-February:
The number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide now stands at 3.4 million, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, announced today. According to data from national immigration authorities and other sources, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are hosting an estimated 2.7 million Venezuelans, while other regions account for the rest. On average, during 2018, an estimated 5,000 people left Venezuela every day in search of protection or a better life.