Top diplomat threatens military force against leader
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.