The Trump administration held several meetings with a group of dissident military officers in Venezuela who claimed they were planning a coup to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to the New York Times. The paper cites 11 current and former U.S. officials and one former Venezuelan commander who was involved in the talks that amounted to at least three meetings with a career diplomat.
One of the Venezuelan military commanders involved in the talks is on a U.S. government list of corrupt officials and has been accused of several serious crimes, including torture and jailing political prisoners. Although the Trump administration ended up deciding not to assist the plotters, the news is bound to backfire considering Maduro has long said Washington is trying to oust him from power. Plus, regional leaders aren’t likely to be happy with the way in which the White House seemed at the very least willing to consider the idea of backing a military coup. Although many in the region have expressed opposition to Maduro at a time when the collapse of the Venezuelan economy has sparked a mass migration out of the country, the mere talk of U.S. involvement in military coups brings back memories of Cold War-era human rights abuses.
In July, the Associated Press reported that President Donald Trump had brought up the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela at a meeting in the Oval Office in August of last year. That was the same month that Trump publicly declared there was a “military option” for Venezuela. That public bravado is in part what encouraged the Venezuela military officers to reach out to Washington for assistance. “It was the commander in chief saying this now,” the former Venezuelan commander told the Times. “I’m not going to doubt it when this was the messenger.”
In the meetings, the Venezuelan officers said they represented several hundred members of the armed forces and requested encrypted radios from the United States so they could communicate securely. In the end, the White House declined to participate in the effort and a recent crackdown on alleged coup plotters appears to have unraveled any coup plans.
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