Juan Guaidó has for the first time said he would likely back US military intervention in Venezuela, speaking on the eve of another weekend of tension and calls for mass protests.
“If the Americans were to propose a military intervention I would probably accept it,” he said, in an interview with Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.
Mr Guaidó has previously said that “all options remain on the table” – a comment echoed frequently in Washington – but has been gradually hardening his rhetoric on the issue in the wake of the recent failed uprising. This latest appeal is seen as his most direct yet.
He told a press conference on Thursday that multiple red lines had been crossed, including the seizure of his deputy, Edgar Zambrano, on Wednesday night, and the arrest warrants issued for 10 parliamentarians who backed the rebellion. Three of them have fled to embassies in Caracas – two to the Italian embassy, and one to the Argentine.
Mr Guaidó’s political mentor, Leopoldo Lopez, has also sought refuge, residing in the Spanish embassy since the failed uprising of April 30.
On Thursday Southcom – the US military command with responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean – said they “stand ready” to help Mr Guaidó.
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“When invited by @jguaido & the legitimate gov’t of #Venezuela, I look forward to discussing how we can support the future role of those @ArmadaFANB leaders who make the right decision, put the Venezuela people first & restore constitutional order,” said Navy Admiral Craig Faller, commander of Southcom, in a tweet.
“We stand ready! #EstamosUnidosVE.”
On May 3 the acting defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, confirmed that Adm. Faller flew to Washington to meet with him and other senior officials, including Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state; John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser; Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence; and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The meeting was called to review and refine military planning and options for responding to the crisis, said Mr Shanahan. He declined to provide details and gave no indication they made decisions to take any military action.
Retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, Southcom commander from 2006 to 2009, said he opposes intervention.
“I would not advise it,” he told Foreign Policy. “I commanded US Southern Command for three years in Miami, so I can picture pretty much what is happening there.”
Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said that an invasion of Venezuela would require more forces than the invasions of Grenada and Panama did, and also could be riskier.
Venezuela “is twice the size of Iraq with only a slightly smaller population, and teeters on the verge of chaos. Any invasion requires preparations on a similar scale, meaning a 100,000-plus force,” she said.
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