OAS members back Venezuela’s Guaido, but downplay intervention risk

OAS members back Venezuela’s Guaido, but downplay intervention risk

By Luke Vargas   
Published
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams addresses a gathering of the Organization of American States in Washington. February 14, 2019. Courtesy: OAS
U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams addresses a gathering of the Organization of American States in Washington. February 14, 2019. Courtesy: OAS

“There’s absolutely no regional appetite for any kind of extra-military intervention in Venezuela."

UNITED NATIONS  Members of the Organization of American States gathered in Washington Thursday to intensify pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to allow foreign aid into his country.

Elliott Abrams, President Trump’s new Special Representative for Venezuela, described Venezuela’s problems as “entirely manmade” and said that any fix must involve one thing.

“Any solution to Venezuela’s crisis must begin with the definitive departure of the Maduro regime, the minimum condition for Venezuela’s democratic transition.”

A host of countries used Thursday’s meeting to align themselves with Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, Juan Guaidó, who has ordered food and medicine sent to Venezuela against Maduro’s wishes.

The Netherlands even said it was building a logistics hub on the nearby Dutch island of Curacao to assist any hypothetical aid effort, but it’s the U.S. that’s pushing the envelope by stockpiling aid just over the Venezuelan border with Colombia and that’s help set up a possible scenario in which Venezuelan troops would have to forcefully turn away aid workers.

Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela expert at the Washington Center on Latin America, says things could get messy on Feb. 23, when Guaidó has said aid deliveries into Venezuela will begin.

“There may be calls for some kind of mobilization, some kind of protest to help bring this aid in with some understanding that that could be met with repression from the Venezuelan security forces.”

While Ramsey worries this plan could lead to “disorder,” he thinks it’s unlikely the U.S. or its allies could embrace any truly risky strategies in the weeks ahead.

“There’s absolutely no regional appetite for any kind of extra-military intervention in Venezuela. I actually don’t even think there’s any interest in doing so here in Washington. Instead, this is about signaling. It’s trying to signal to forces around Maduro that they should break from him and support a transition. We haven’t seen that so far, but that’s certainly the strategy around this.”

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