Saturday 16 February 2019

'US won't invade Venezuela ... yet'

Security chief Bolton doesn't rule out military action against Maduro

Stand-off: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó hugs his daughter outside of his home after a meeting with supporters in Caracas. Photo by Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images
Stand-off: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó hugs his daughter outside of his home after a meeting with supporters in Caracas. Photo by Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images

Paula Braselle

American military intervention in Venezuela is not imminent, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton has said - but he reiterated that all options remain on the table.

Asked if US military intervention was imminent - or by Brazil or Colombia or a combination of all three nations - Mr Bolton told the Hugh Hewitt radio show: "No."

Meanwhile in Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had not yet received a message from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who had revealed he had sent a communication to Russia.

"We have not received any messages yet. If or when we receive it, we will review it," Mr Peskov told reporters. He added Russia did not recognise Mr Guaidó as Venezuelan president.

Last night Mr Guaidó said he would defy a government ban on humanitarian aid by sending large convoys of medicine into the country with the help of neighbouring nations.

Mr Guaidó told the Associated Press the move will be a "new test" for Venezuela's military, whose top brass has sided with President Nicolás Maduro since protests against his rule broke out.

Mr Guaidó explained that aid for Venezuela will include life-saving medicines that are scarce in Venezuela and will be transported by vehicles arriving at several border points, after it is shipped into "friendly ports" in neighbouring countries.

"We are not just taking aid from the United States," Mr Guaidó explained. "But in the next few days we will announce a global coalition to send aid to Venezuela."

Global jostling over the leadership of the country intensified yesterday as Mr Guaidó made overtures to his rival's allies Russia and China.

Mr Guaidó told Reuters he had sent communications to both powers, which are Venezuela's top foreign creditors and support Mr Maduro in the UN Security Council despite worries about the cash-strapped country's ability to pay.

The 35-year-old leader argued that Russia and China's interests would be best served by switching the side they back in Venezuela, an Opec member which has the world's largest oil reserves but is in dire financial straits.

"What most suits Russia and China is the country's stability and a change of government," Mr Guaidó said.

"Maduro does not protect Venezuela, he doesn't protect anyone's investments, and he is not a good deal for those countries."

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked if China had been in touch with Mr Guaidó, said they were "maintaining close communication with all parties through various means regarding the situation in Venezuela."

China's co-operation with Venezuela was based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and joint development, he told reporters in Beijing.

"We believe that no matter how the situation develops or changes, co-operation between China and Venezuela will not be damaged."

The intense pressure is led by the United States, which along with most other countries in the Western Hemisphere recognises Mr Guaidó as the country's legitimate interim president, arguing that Mr Maduro stole his second-term election.

Washington on Monday imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil firm, aimed at pressuring Mr Maduro to step down.

A former union leader, bus driver and foreign minister, the 56-year-old Mr Maduro, who first took office in 2013, has faced waves of protests in recent years as he presided over hyperinflation and chronic food shortages.

Some three million Venezuelans have left the country.

A UN expert on Thursday warned that the US oil sanctions could worsen the humanitarian crisis. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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