The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee warned generals on Thursday against planning a military intervention in Venezuela without first seeking congressional input.
“Congress must be consulted if there is any military action beyond the current planning for the evacuation of U.S. citizens and embassy personnel" in Venezuela, Jack Reed of Rhode Island told Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
Reed’s warning comes a little more than a week after National Security Adviser John Bolton attended a news conference carrying a notebook with "5,000 troops to Colombia" scribbled on it. The next day, Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan did not rule out sending U.S. forces to Venezuela’s neighbor and U.S. ally Colombia to tend to upheaval in the region.
Recently, Venezuela’s years-long economic and political troubles have worsened. Venezuela’s economy continues to contract as hyperinflation in the country is projected to surpass 13,000 percent by year’s end, all while international support for the country’s opposition party is growing.
President Donald Trump and numerous other world leaders in January threw support behind Juan Guaido, the leader of the Venezuelan legislature, as the country’s legitimate president.
Guaido in January invoked a clause in the Venezuelan constitution to declare illegitimate the Nicolas Maduro regime, thus installing himself as the country’s interim president.
Maduro in January claimed victory in Venezuela’s presidential elections, which were deemed illegitimate by the United States, European Union and some of Latin America’s biggest countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Peru. Those countries and Guaido have since called for new, fair elections.
In the meantime, the United States has attempted to squeeze the Maduro regime through oil and other sanctions, but the socialist leader is still clinging to power.
“We’ve seen impacts but we haven’t seen the desired result,” Faller said of the sanctions imposed on Venezuela.
In the face of international pressure, Maduro has turned to Cuba, Russia and China.
“We’ve seen reporting of Russian security forces being flown in,” Faller said, noting that Maduro also relies on Cuban intelligence officers and security forces for his personal protection.
China has also helped to keep the Maduro regime afloat, loaning Caracas billions of dollars and helping the regime in other ways.
“China’s in there,” Faller said, “and they’re involved in cyber in ways that are absolutely unhelpful to a democratic outcome.”