US holds direct contact with Venezuelan military

Published: February 09, 2019 19:03:49 | Updated: February 11, 2019 10:09:32


Venezuelan Colonel Jose Luis Silva, Venezuela’s Military Attache at its Washington embassy to the United States, is interviewed by Reuters after announcing that he is defecting from the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Washington, US, January 26, 2019.

The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.

The Trump administration expects further military defections from Maduro’s side, the official told Reuters in an interview, despite only a few senior officers having done so since opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president last month, earning the recognition of the United States and dozens of other countries.

“We believe these to be those first couple pebbles before we start really seeing bigger rocks rolling down the hill,” the official said this week, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’re still having conversations with members of the former Maduro regime, with military members, although those conversations are very, very limited.”

The official declined to provide details on the discussions or the level at which they are being held, and it was unclear whether such contacts could create cracks in the Venezuelan socialist leader’s support from the military, which is pivotal to his grip on power.

With the Venezuelan military still apparently loyal to Maduro, a source in Washington close to the opposition expressed doubts whether the Trump administration has laid enough groundwork to spur a wider mutiny in the ranks where many officers are suspected of benefiting from corruption and drug trafficking, reports Reuters.

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