Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for “direct relationship” with the US military in his latest bid to oust the government of President Nicolas Maduro with American help.
Guaidosaid at a Saturday rally in the capital Caracas that he had instructed his envoy in Washington, Carlos Vecchio, to immediately establish ties with Pentagon officials for possible military “cooperation.”
“We have instructed our ambassador Carlos Vecchio to meet immediately with the Southern Command and its admiral to establish direct relationship for cooperation,” Guaido said.
“We have said from the beginning that we will use all the resources at our disposal to build pressure.”
The remarks are regarded as one of Guaido’s strongest public pleas for greater US involvement in the Latin American country’s fast-escalating economic and political crisis.
The Venezuelan opposition leader told an Italian newspaper this week that he would “probably” accept a US military intervention if Washington proposed it.
Guaido has repeatedly echoed comments from the US administration that “all options” are on the table for removing Maduro.
In a tweet on Thursday, the US Southern Command (SOCOM) said it was prepared to discuss “how we can support the future role” of Venezuelan military leaders who “restore constitutional order” when invited by Guaido.
Last Tuesday, a small group of armed troops accompanying Guaido clashed with soldiers at an anti-government rally in Caracas in an attempted coup that soon petered out. More than 100 people were reportedly injured as a result of the violence.
The administration of US President Donald Trump, which has recognized a self-proclamation by Guaido as the “interim president” of Venezuela, quickly backed the attempted putsch.
Maduro, who has called Guaido a puppet of Washington, announced in a televised speech later in the day that the group of military personnel supporting Guaido had been defeated and 25 renegade soldiers had sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy in Caracas.
Most Latin American countries, as well as the European Union, have expressed opposition to a potential military intervention in Venezuela.
As part of a pressure campaign to push Maduro out of power, US Vice President Mike Pence has offered incentives to the Venezuelan military personnel to entice them to defect and join the opposition.
Washington has lifted sanctions on a former Venezuelan general who had broken ranks with Maduro to support Guaido. The US has also blacklisted more than 150 Venezuelan officials and businesses.
Venezuela forces US ship out of territorial waters
On Saturday, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino lashed out at what he said was an illegal incursion by a US Coast Guard vessel into Venezuelan territorial waters.
“I don’t know if other republics will accept actions like this in their jurisdiction, but we will not,” Padrino said.
Padrino also said that the Venezuelan Navy had forced the US vessel to withdraw and change course.
A Southern Command spokesman announced on Friday that a US Coast Guard vessel was conducting a “counterdrug detection and monitoring mission” in “international waters” in the Caribbean Sea.