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Monday, Sep 17, 2018 at 11:27 pm

Talking Points | Venezuelan Talks

By Brandon Ross – Syracuse, N.Y. (CitrusTV) – Trump administration officials and senior Venezuelan military officers have conducted numerous secret meetings over the past year discussing the latter’s plans to overthrow president Nicolas Maduro, people familiar with the meetings told the New York Times.

This is the latest in what’s been a long history of United States interventions into Latin American affairs, which includes funding of the Contra rebel group in Nicaragua to overthrow the Sandinista government, the installing of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and numerous attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro or overthrow his government. Most notable among these interventions, however, is the CIA-backed attempted coup of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez back in 2002, which briefly succeeded before Chavez took back his power with the support of loyalist supporters and generals.

The White House did not answer detailed questions about the matter, simply saying engaging in a dialogue with all democratic-minded Venezuelans is important.

“U.S. policy preference for a peaceful, orderly return to democracy in Venezuela remains unchanged,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement. “The United States government hears daily the concerns of Venezuelans from all walks of life – be they members of the ruling party, the security services, elements of civil society or from among the millions of citizens forced by the regime to flee abroad. They share one goal: the rebuilding of democracy in their homeland.”

The meetings supposedly began in the fall of 2017, where the Trump administration sent a career diplomat “purely on listening mode” with no instructions to make any negotiations. The American diplomat who assessed the meeting said that the rebels there in the room did not seem to have a coherent plan for an overthrow but seemed to hope the United States would provide resources and ideas.

Trump officials eventually decided against aiding and abetting a coup. But the fact that there were multiple meeting could backfire against the United States, seeing as Maduro has long justified his authoritarian policies as protection against an imperialist American government which has long done wrong for other countries in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, U.S.-Venezuela relations have not been on solid ground recently, with the countries refusing to exchange ambassadors since 2010.

This report also comes just a month after a separate attempt to assassinate the Venezuelan president with drones carrying explosives. Trump denies any United States involvement in the plot, though last year Trump did mention that intervention was on the table when it comes to dealing with Venezuela.

“We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said last August.

Part of the reason for the rejection of this coup plan appears to be related to the identity of one of the Venezuelan military leaders involved, who has not been publicly identified, but has been confirmed to be on the United States list of corrupt leaders in Venezuela. The officer in question is allegedly involved in the torture of government critics, the jailing of political prisoners, drug trafficking, and collaboration with the Revolution Armed Forces of Colombia (a.k.a FARC).

There is certainly no shortage of reasons that leaders of various South American countries or generals in Venezuela may want to see Maduro deposed. His fiscal policy has completely wrecked the nation’s economy, causing extreme shortages of food and medicine and violent protests in response. This is also causing a major emigration crisis, as many neighboring countries are reluctant to take in Venezuelan refugees.

But regardless, there is a decent consensus that military intervention would not be the wisest move.

“It makes no sense to support a military coup in Latin America. They always end badly, but it’s worth listening to these people,” said Adam Isacson, an employee of the Washington Office on Latin America, to The Washington Post. “What is their level of discontent? Do they have broad-based support among the population or are they just a bunch of renegades? Do they have an honest plan to start elections? The military is a black box.”

Though intervention may not be the best option, the consensus also dictates something must be done to deal with Venezuela and Maduro.

“He’s remarkable in his lack of appreciation for democratic values and institutions. And I think that’s where some of the greatest damage is being done,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told CNN’s Manu Raju last week. “Left to his own accord, our country would look somewhat like Venezuela.”