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Trump leaves & # 39; military option & # 39; on the table for Venezuela



President Donald Trump spent much of his first year in office focused on North Korea and Iran and attempted to counter the threats his administration believed they had made to the United States.

In addition to these two states, Venezuela, where the government has shattered turmoil and disagreement and affairs, made it one of Trump's top three priority national security principles, although the Pentagon excluded military powers, Russia and China as prime threats. against the United States.

It was "definitely" the Trump administration's perception of the South American country, said Fernando Cutz, a member of the Obama and Trump Administration National Security Council staff, in the latter case as director of South America and senior adviser to former National Security Advisor HR McMaster.

Protests clash with riot police during a rally to demand a referendum to remove the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on September 1, 2016.
Reuters / Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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The socialist led and authoritarian Venezuela has been a foil for Trump to attack from the political court throughout his time in the office.

His administration's assessment of the country as a risk stems from its potential for collapse after years of political and economic unrest – marked by protests against protests and political resistance by President Nicolas Maduro's government and a mass exodus from the Venezuelans.

In 2017, "Venezuela was one of the three main priorities of [Trump] on foreign policy issues. He boarded very early and already asked about Venezuela, and … I think it was the second business day in the office that I was drawn in [by him] to map him on Venezuela, "Cutz said to Business Insider this month. "It wasn't a problem I had to push. He wanted to know more about what we did."

"Whatever previous experience or knowledge he had on the subject, which honestly I do not know what it was, but it drove him to engage quite quickly and strongly," he added.

Cutz – who left the White House in the spring of 2018 and is a senior associate in the Cohen Business Advisory Group – said there was some continuity between Obama and Trump in Venezuela.

"I think what we saw under President Trump is an opportunity for us to do a little more than we did under President Obama, but it followed a very similar path that we had for ourselves under President Obama. "Cutz said.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and President Donald Trump at a press conference on possible reactions to the crisis in Venezuela, August 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

19659002] Trump's focus on Venezuela contrasts with what seems to be indifference to the region, characterized by the cancellation of bilateral meetings and early departure from the G20 summit in Argentina.

Maduro has been criticized for authoritarian measures and called a dictator, but Trump's rejection of him differs from the President's attitude to other countries with authoritarian or dictatorial governments, such as Russia or China.

Asked about the apparent inconsistency, White House officials said in the spring that Venezuela was eligible for attention because the region had never seen such economic and humanitarian turmoil that threatened other US partners.

Cutz echo that rating.

The hemisphere lacks threats that exist elsewhere in the world, such as nuclear weapons or terrorism, he said.

"But I do not think you can underestimate the threat of a failed state very close to our borders. The Venezuelan regime has really deteriorated rapidly. The economy is almost non-existent at this time. Any form of democracy is huge looked away now, "Cutz said. "It has become a full dictatorship."

An opposition protester blocks a hooded car as a riot police clash with protesters during a march against the Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on April 19, 2017.
REUTERS / Marco Bello

] "We are already seeing the first-order effects of [worsening conditions in Venezuela] in Colombia and Ecuador and Peru and Brazil with the mass migration crisis taking place right now," he added. "I think it's minimal compared to what we can still see in the next year or two or three, depending on how this continues."

Some 3.3 million of Venezuela's approximately 30 million inhabitants have fled, most since 2015, according to the United Nations.

Most have sought relief from widespread violence, burgeoning inflation and violent deficiencies in neighboring countries, mostly Colombia, which is strained during the massive influx. The UN said in December that another 2 million could leave in 2019.

"It could really destabilize our friends and allies in Colombia, Brazil, Peru and cause some much bigger problems for us, not to mention some of these refugees could start making their way to the United States and it could create its own kind of new migration crisis, "Cutz said.

Colombian police officers fresh people and inspect their luggage as Venezuelan queue outside a swap house in Cucuta, Colombia on May 17, 2018.
REUTERS / Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

Foreign governments has added their criticism of Maduro in recent days, saying they would not recognize his new expression after he was sworn in for another six years in the office, won in an election rejected as fraudulent. State Secretary Mike Pompeo has called the government "illegal".

Since that initiation, the often-split opposition has rallied around Juan Guaido, president of the opposition-dominated national assembly. Guaido, briefly arrested earlier this week, has begun to maneuver to unseat Maduro. Brazil has recognized Guaido as president who is also considering the United States. (China and Russia remain two of Venezuela's largest backers.)

The Trump administration has offered help to countries taking in the Venezuelans, and Pompeo has met with leaders from the region to express support for confronting Maduro. But the administration has been reluctant to introduce special immigration actions for these immigrants despite a 21% increase in arrivals in the US between 2016 and 2017.

Trump himself has made a more aggressive tone and said in August 2017 that the US had "many opportunities for Venezuela, including a possible military opportunity" – a note Cutz has said "was not in the script."

The Trump administration had several secret meetings with rebellious Venezuelan military officers in 2018, but ultimately mitigated their requests to support a coup.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro changes a soldier's epaulette during a promotion ceremony in Caracas on July 2, 2018.
Miraflores Palace / Handout

At the Wilson Center event in Washington, In September, Cutz said in the White House "never debated to support a coup" or support a coup while working there, but was always open to listen when a player in Venezuela wanted to speak.

Cutz also said at the event that the administration had escalated steps for the development in Venezuela, including a military response, for which he specifically mentioned the killing of US citizens or a massacre of Venezuelans as potential triggers.

The steps also included "a full oil embargo", he said.

Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, and oil accounts for about 95% of export earnings. Experts warned that an embargo will significantly worsen Venezuela's turmoil by cutting income used for things like food and medicine imports. Analysts have said it would crawl through global markets.

The White House has in recent days said to US US refineries that it is considering sanctioning Venezuela's oil exports to the US, although it is still cautious about the consequences, especially on US oil prices.

Discussions on such a move where it was concerned about the effect it could have, Cutz said in September: "If we destroy Venezuela, and we make the situation worse for the people of Venezuela, what will happen now?"


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