CARACAS (Reuters) – Vice-president of the Venezuelan Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello, predicted on Saturday that the US Marines would "likely" enter the South American country one week after a dispute between planes of the armed forces of both countries.
FILE Photo: President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, attends a rally in support of the Government of President Nicolas Maduro and the Sao Paulo Forum in Caracas, Venezuela, on July 27, 2019. REUTERS / Manaure Quintero / File Photo
"We are few, a small country, we are very modest and here it is likely that the US marines will invade. They are likely to come in, "Cabello told the Sao Paulo Forum, a coalition of leftist politicians and activists from across Latin America, without giving any evidence.
"Your problem will break away from Venezuela."
Tensions between the US and Venezuela have worsened this year since Juan Guaido, chairman of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, called on the constitution to hold a provisional presidency in January. The re-election of Socialist President Nicolas Maduro in 2018 was unlawful.
The United States and most western democracies have recognized Guaido as the rightful leader. The Trump administration said it would continue to use sanctions and diplomacy to force Maduro to resign but has not ruled out military action as an option.
Cabello presides over the Constituent Assembly, a legislative superbody loyal to Maduro and not recognized by the opposition. He is considered after Maduro as the second strongest official of the Venezuelan government.
The US military accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of "aggressively" tailing a US Navy aircraft in international airspace over the Caribbean on 19 July. Venezuela's government said the "reconnaissance and intelligence aircraft" had entered its airspace.
The Pentagon did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Cabello's remarks.
The National Assembly approved this week Venezuela's re-entry into a regional defense treaty that the country had left in 2013. The opposition's hardliners had pressured Guaido to rejoin the treaty as a harbinger of plea for foreign military aid to oust Maduro, but Guaido warned there was no "magic solution."
Maduro retains control of state functions and calls Guaido a US puppet that wants to oust him in a coup d'état.
On Saturday, Maduro called the decision to re-enter the treaty, "illegal" and "treacherous." The Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled on Friday that reintegration was "zero" and that efforts to use the treaty would be considered "hostile".
Reporting by Luc Cohen; Additional coverage of Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang and Sonya Hepinstall