Top diplo­mat threat­ens mil­i­tary force against leader

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - Manuel Rueda is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

Manuel Rueda

CUCUTA, Colom­bia — The head of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States has joined Pres­i­dent Trump in hold­ing out the threat of a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Venezuela to re­store democ­racy and ease the coun­try’s hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

OAS Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Luis Al­ma­gro de­liv­ered the sharp warn­ing dur­ing a visit Fri­day to Colom­bia’s bor­der with Venezuela in which he also de­nounced Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s so­cial­ist “dic­ta­tor­ship” for spurring a re­gion­wide mi­gra­tion cri­sis.

“With respect to a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion to over­throw Ni­co­las Maduro’s regime, I don’t think any op­tion should be ruled out,” Al­ma­gro said at a news con­fer­ence in the Colom­bian city of Cucuta. “What Ni­co­las Maduro’s regime is per­pe­trat­ing are crimes against hu­man­ity, the vi­o­la­tion of the hu­man rights and the suf­fer­ing of peo­ple that is in­duc­ing an ex­o­dus. Diplo­matic ac­tions should be the first pri­or­ity, but we shouldn’t rule out any ac­tion.” Al­ma­gro has been Maduro’s most out­spo­ken critic in Latin Amer­ica, but un­til Fri­day he hadn’t been will­ing to go as far as Trump, who last year raised the pos­si­bil­ity of a “mil­i­tary op­tion” against Maduro. In sev­eral meet­ings with aides and Latin Amer­i­can lead­ers last year, Trump also dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of a U.S. in­va­sion of the South Amer­i­can na­tion.

Still, for many in Latin Amer­ica, the prospect of a mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion is bound to re­vive mem­o­ries of the Cold War, when the U.S. gave back­ing to coups and re­bel­lions from coun­tries in­clud­ing Chile, Cuba and Brazil.

For Al­ma­gro, the threat of mil­i­tary force is es­pe­cially sur­pris­ing given his con­dem­na­tion of the re­gion’s sup­port for a U.S. in­va­sion of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic in 1965 to re­move a demo­crat­i­cally elected but pro-Cuban pres­i­dent. The in­va­sion, car­ried out in the OAS’ name, left thou­sands dead and for decades stirred Latin Amer­i­can re­sent­ment against the idea of ever again us­ing force against sov­er­eign na­tion.

Al­ma­gro in 2015 apol­o­gized for the OAS’ role in the in­va­sion, say­ing such events should not be re­peated.

While cir­cum­stances in Venezuela are far dif­fer­ent, and many still see an in­va­sion as a re­mote pos­si­bil­ity, Maduro has none­the­less held out the threat to try and rally Venezue­lans be­hind him at a time of mount­ing hard­ships.

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