The US military began providing humanitarian aid on Saturday to a Colombian city near the Venezuelan border to bolster an emergency plan that has become a cornerstone in the search for the overthrow of President Nicolás Maduro.
Military personnel deployed C-17 freighters are transporting thousands of supplements and hygiene kits from a base near Miami to Cucuta, the nation's primary source of hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, pushing the Venezuelan opposition leaders and their international supporters to the border want.
As Controversy Venezuela's future has been dragging on for weeks, and Mr. Maduro and his enemies are fighting for the support of the commanders of the armed forces who have remained faithful to the country's authoritarian leader.
One major reason is the enormous amount of money that the country's more than 2,000 generals have to lose in a post-Maduro era, Adm said. Craig S. Faller, chief of the United States Southern Command, said in an interview.
"There are many generals and many leaders on Maduro's illicit payroll through illegal drug trafficking, money laundering and many other oil companies," said Admiral Faller. "Maduro has bought his loyalty."
The US military has found that more than 1,000 Cuban military and intelligence advisors working with the Russian government have been instrumental in keeping the top ranks of the Venezuelan military loyal to Mr. Maduro, Admiral Faller added.
While ordinary members of the Venezuelan military endure the hunger and hardships faced by a large part of the population in the midst of a worsening humanitarian crisis, the large corps of generals and other high-ranking officers of the country has rejected a plan to Overthrow Mr. Maduro and help the opposition leaders convene new elections.
The Venezuelan military has more than twice as many generals and high-ranking officers as the US military, which is exponentially larger Cuba and Russia have condemned the plan to force Mr. Maduro out of power as a coup d'état with American orchestration.
The dispute over Venezuela's future began about a month ago when new opposition leader Juan Guaidó announced a roadmap to lift Mr. Maduro from power. It has sparked the specter of a military confrontation that has left the United States for decades directly into the first conflict in the region.
The Trump administration has not ruled out the use of military force in Venezuela, Guaidó's claim that the constitution gives him the right to act as interim leader until a new vote can take place.
Mr. Maduro has spent much of his time in photographing and filming surrounded by his troops to convey that he is supported by a loyal, well-trained, and deadly force.
This may include American diplomats in Caracas have been evacuated, embassy security strengthened, and the humanitarian aid plan that Mr. Maduro has hitherto been hampering overburdened by turmoil in the country's embassies.
The State Department last month ordered most of its employees in Venezuela and their relatives to come home. It has retained a small team that may need to be quickly withdrawn in the event of a sudden deterioration in security.
"We are ready to protect US life and protect the diplomatic institution in Venezuela," Admiral Faller said in a series of interviews during a trip to Brazil, discussing the crisis with high-ranking military officials. "There are a number of options that are on the table."
When the opposition leaders realized that the military had teamed up with Mr Maduro after Guaidó declared himself as the country's rightful leader on January 23, he had set up a plan to buy millions of million in food and medicines To bring dollars into the country.
But Maduro and his allies barricaded the road along a major border crossing with Colombia to prevent trucks from entering their country.
Freddy Bernal, a Maduro loyalist recently sent to the border, admitted that the Venezuelan military would be outclassed if the United States provided its military with the provision of assistance. However, he warned that such a decision would have the potential to provoke an armed conflict that would destabilize the region for years to come.
"Of course they can attack us, they are used to killing millions in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere." Mr Bernal said. "You have been helping Syria for seven years now and see how the country is doing."
Mr. Bernal said the Venezuelan government realized that it would lose an armed conflict with the United States. "But are we ready to die to defend the Fatherland? Yes, we are ready to do that.
The Trump administration has hinted at the possibility of using force against the opposition. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton was recently photographed with a notebook in which he scribbled "5,000 soldiers to Colombia." When asked about the sentence, the White House said, "All options are on the table."
Admiral Faller said it was premature to discuss whether American troops could be assigned to help on Venezuelan soil, a mission that would incur significant risks in a weapons-fueled nation would help people difficult circumstances, citing the recent natural disasters in Asia.
Rebecca Chavez, Deputy Secretary of Defense for the Western Hemisphere during the Obama administration, said it was "very likely" The US military would be drawn into crisis in Venezuela as the power struggle between Mr. Maduro and Mr. Guaidó escalated.
But she argued: "Any unilateral military intervention In Venezuela, that would be a big mistake." If the American military ultimately provides relief or participates in a peace mission, Ms Chavez said that should be done as part of a coalition.
Die The recent election of Conservative leaders in major Latin American countries, including Brazil, Colombia and Chile, makes this prospect more plausible than in previous years, but officials in Colombia and Brazil have signaled deep reservations about military missions in Venezuela.
The Outlook an influx of humanitarian aid raises hopes among Venezuelans struggling to bring food to the table, a 57-year-old businessman from Ureña near the Colombian border, recently attended a rally aimed at providing aid She had an egg n sign with the inscription "Welcome to my country" in English.
Sandoval said she dreamed of watching American Marines watch as they poured into their land to break the impasse.
"We Venezuelans need help," she said. We are tired of it. "