Venezuelan troops recently set roadblocks on the country’s largest road leading into neighboring Colombia in order to prevent much-needed food, medicine, and aid supplies from reaching desperate citizens. As the country descends further into madness with two men claiming to be Venezuela’s legitimate ruler, Nicolas Maduro ordered the blockade as a show of defiance in the face of overwhelming international pressure to step down. According to a report from the New York Times, trucks loaded with crucial supplies are staging in the Colombian border town of Cúcuta, but as of this writing, the convoy has yet to attempt a move.
“The Venezuelan people desperately need humanitarian aid,” wrote U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a tweet on Wednesday. “The U.S. & other countries are trying to help, but #Venezuela’s military under Maduro’s orders is blocking aid with trucks and shipping tankers. The Maduro regime must LET THE AID REACH THE STARVING PEOPLE. #EstamosUnidosVE.”
While some say this recent move is evidence the Maduro regime is feeling the heat, others in the U.S. government are concerned for the safety of American diplomats currently stationed in and around Caracas, the nation’s capital. On Thursday, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) boss, Admiral Craig Faller, stated the U.S. military is prepared to send in forces to protect Americans if Maduro makes any move threatening their safety.
“We are prepared to protect U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities if necessary,” said Faller during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a report from Reuters. Faller did not elaborate on what kind of planning or what type of force may be used, should the need arise.
Faller also stated that while the majority of Venezuelan military commanders are still loyal to Maduro, the lower level troops are “just like the population,” meaning, they are short on money, food, water, and medicine.
“The legitimate government of President Guaido has offered amnesty, and a place for the military forces, most of which we think would be loyal to the Constitution, not to a dictator, a place to go,” said Faller.
The U.S. military has a history of launching operations in South and Central America to safeguard American lives. In late 1989, Operation Just Cause was launched in Panama to defeat the forces of Manuel Noriega and protect the approximately 35,000 U.S. citizens living in the country. According to the U.S. Army, combat operations lasted only five days, and it was the largest deployment of U.S. troops since the Vietnam War. The U.S. conducted another combat operation, Operation Urgent Fury, in the region in 1983 when a “deteriorating political situation” in Grenada threatened American lives on the island. Grenada sits just off the Venezuelan coast in the Caribbean Sea.