international intrigue

Venezuela’s Opposition Pushes for Military Force to Topple Maduro

Members of the Venezuelan National Guard clash with protesters Sunday. Photo: Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó met Monday with Vice-President Mike Pence in Colombia, and he was expected to ask that the U.S. military consider ousting Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro.

Guaidó signaled his intention Saturday, after a failed attempt to bring aid into Venezuela. Trucks filled with food and medicine, held up across the country’s borders with Colombia and Brazil, were turned back by Venezuelan forces, who fired buckshot and tear gas at activists. Two people were killed and hundreds more injured in the clashes Saturday.

If the goal of the attempted “humanitarian avalanche” was to bring aid to suffering Venezuelans, it failed. But if the goal was to increase the likelihood of foreign intervention to topple Maduro, then the opposition likely considers it a success.

On Saturday night, Guaidó called for the international community to consider “all options,” echoing President Trump’s language on the issue. While Guaidó hasn’t explicitly said he’d call for a U.S. military intervention, Julio Borges, an opposition politician and Guaidó ally, has. “We are going to demand an escalation of diplomatic pressure … and the use of force against Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship,” Borges said Sunday, previewing the requests to be made of Pence.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seemed to signal a willingness to grant Borges’s request, saying Maduro’s “days are numbered.” Also Sunday, Florida senator Marco Rubio, one of the loudest Maduro critics in Washington, tweeted pictures of leaders deposed by the U.S. The implication was clear, especially considering Rubio’s claim just hours before that “crimes committed” Saturday “by the Maduro regime have opened the door to various potential multilateral actions not on the table just 24 hours ago.” Also on Sunday, exiled Venezuelan lawmaker Sonia Miranda called for a use of force against Maduro.

“Yesterday that road of reconciliation was exhausted,” she said. “The military option is the one we should appeal to at the moment.”

The U.S. doesn’t seem quite ready to send in the troops though, despite Pompeo’s bombast. A senior administration official who previewed Pence’s remarks Monday said the VP will announce “clear actions” in response to the weekend’s events, but “he is not likely to address whether the U.S. military would get involved,” the Washington Post reports.

Pence may announce more sanctions on Venezuela, a move that could further devastate the already suffering people of the country. The idea behind the new sanctions would be the same as one behind the sanctions against the state-owned oil company last month — to further destabilize Maduro. But new sanctions could also worsen the suffering for the millions of Venezuelans who are sick and hungry.

Pushing for military intervention could create another problem for the Venezuelan opposition: Its allies in the region have no interest in participating. As Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society, told the Wall Street Journal: “Military action is not the right course at this point. It would be a step too far that would break up the international coalition against Maduro.”

Opposition Pushes for Military Force to Topple Maduro