In one of the largest military operations the region has seen since the US invasion of Panama in 1989, Donald Trump has ordered a massive buildup of warships in the Caribbean Sea as part of the escalating US aggression against Venezuela.
The deployment – which includes Navy destroyers, Coast Guard cutters, Navy littoral combat ships, helicopters, Navy P-8 patrol aircraft and Air Force AWACS surveillance aircraft – is nominally part of an ongoing “anti-narcotics” operations in the region. Trump has recently taken to describing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a “narco-terrorist” as a way to generate support for the buildup, as well as for the ongoing sanctions and other acts of aggression.
Ivan Duque, the far-right president of Colombia, has pressed for increased US military in the fight against “narco-terrorism,” a term generally used to slander revolutionary forces such as the FARC-EP and ELN guerrilla movements. Duque claims that Venezuela is harbouring guerrilla forces from Colombia, while the US Department of Justice has accused Maduro and other Venezuelan officials of conspiring to “flood” the United States with cocaine.
Ironically, official data from US agencies indicate that only a tiny fraction of narcotics pass through Venezuela, thoroughly undermining the US government’s own position.
Regardless of the official pretext, it is clear that the military buildup is intended to bolster the US drive to oust Venezuela’s legitimately elected leader. The deployment comes on the heels of the State Department’s “framework for a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela,” which calls for Maduro’s resignation and a transition government headed by forces opposed to the Bolivarian process, which would oversee new elections.
Trump has pledged that, if Maduro leaves and the Venezuelan government ends its good relations with Cuba, he will lift sanctions against Venezuelan individuals and key economic sectors. Until then, the US has promised to escalate its sanctions and other unilateral coercive measures.
The Lima Group – which includes Canada – issued a statement supporting the US framework document. Perversely, the statement explicitly positions a foreign-backed coup as the key component in confronting coronavirus in Venezuela; nowhere does it mention the deadly impact of the illegal sanctions which it supports.
President Maduro responded to the escalation with a letter to the people of the United States, in which he said, “It is clear that the Trump Administration is building a smoke screen to hide the improvised and erratic handling of the pandemic in the United States.” Maduro appealed to the US people to “put a stop to this madness, to hold your officials accountable and to force them to focus their attention and their resources on urgently addressing the pandemic.”
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