(April 15, 2019) — Top Colombia diplomats were among several dozen US and Latin American senior officials who attended a confidential meeting in Washington DC last week to discuss possible military action in Venezuela.
Colombia’s Ambassador to the US, Francisco Santos, was among those at an off-the-record seminar entitled, “Assessing the Use of Military Force in Venezuela,” sponsored by an influential Washington-based thinktank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The private, unofficial meeting made clear that military intervention in Venezuela remains an option for the US, which has been unable to replace the disputed President Nicolas Maduro with the US-friendly Juan Guaido, despite months of pressure.
The event, along with the roster of attendees, was posted by investigative journalist Max Blumenthal at his web site, The Grayzone.
There is no mention of the meeting on the CSIS website.
“We talked about military options in Venezuela,” one attendee confirmed to Blumenthal, declining to give further information.
In addition to Santos, other members of Colombia’s US Embassy staff were present, including Defense Attache Gen. Juan Pablo Amayo and Deputy Chief of Mission David Avila, according to the attendance list posted by Blumenthal.
Other in attendance were current officials of the US State Department and USAID, along with members of the Venezuelan opposition, former US ambassadors in Latin America (including William Brownfield, former ambassador to Venezuela and Colombia) and National Security Council members.
Former military officials included US Admiral Kurt Tidd, recently retired commander of Southcom, the Miami-based multi-force unit of the US military responsible for Latin America.
CSIS, founded in 1962, is widely considered one of the most influential thinktanks in the world regarding security issues. The University of Pennsylvania’s ranking of think tanks has put it No. 1 in Defense and National Security for the past eight years. Its list of current and former associates is a ‘Who’s Who’ of important diplomats and government officials.
The US has used Colombia as a staging ground for its regime-change campaign against Venezuela, but so far without success.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday visited Cucuta with Colombian President Ivan Duque, Colombia’s main border hub to Venezuela, which has been the center of US activity in the past.
Colombia is the USA’s only Latin American ally that backed down from its opposition to military intervention in international efforts to force out the Venezuelan president.
Colombia Will Make “All Necessary Efforts” to Oust Venezuela’s Government, Duque Tells Pompeo
(April 15, 2019) — Colombia’s President Ivan Duque praised United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for “making all necessary efforts” to force regime change in neighboring Venezuela.
The visit took place only days after top US and Colombian officials met confidentially in Washington DC to discuss a possible military intervention, with the aim of ousting disputed President Nicolas Maduro and replacing him with US-friendly Juan Guaido.
Guaido’s bid for the presidency is supported by more than 50 countries in the Americas and Europe, but only Colombia and the US have refused to rule out a military intervention. The remaining Guaido-supporting countries and the United Nations categorically rejected military intervention.
The Colombian President and the US Secretary of State met in Cucuta, which has been the center of operations to support Guaido and receive Venezuelan refugees.
When talking to the press, Pompeo avoided hinting at military intervention. Instead, he vowed to use all political and economic tools to force Maduro out of office.
“The United States will continue to utilize every economic and political means at our disposal to help the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo told press.
“Using sanctions, visa revocations and other means, we pledge to hold the regime and those propping it up accountable for their corruption and their repression of democracy,” the US Secretary of State added.
Critics have warned that heavy sanctions on Venezuela could further deteriorate the humanitarian situation for ordinary Venezuelans.
Duque “committed” to “all necessary efforts”
Duque stressed that governments in Bogota and Washington shared the commitment to “make all the necessary efforts for the restoration of democracy, freedom and institutional order in Venezuela.”
“Thank you for your compromise,” Pompeo responded.
The two men visited Venezuelan refugees near the Colombian border, which the US State Secretary said was “incredibly moving,” according to the website of Duque.
The president said that the visit should send “a clear message to the Venezuelan people: we are with you to regain freedom.”
According to Reuters, Trump’s hard-right national security adviser John Bolton, said he would deliver a speech in Miami to Cuban exiles on Wednesday about actions the White House is taking on Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, the three socialist-led countries he has been calling a “troika of tyranny.”