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US preparing for military action in Venezuela: Cuba

A US flag (C) is seen amid the crowd of supporters of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido in eastern Caracas on February 12, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The United States is moving its special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a covert plan to stage military intervention in the South American country, which has been engulfed by unrest over the past weeks.

Cuba said in a “Declaration of the Revolutionary Government” on Thursday that recent events in Venezuela, where US-backed opposition Juan Guaido has been challenging the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro, amounted to an attempted coup that had so far failed.

US President Donald Trump’s administration has refused to rule out direct military action against Maduro to force him step down and hand over power to Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.

Havana said that Washington has been expanding the presence of its forces in neighboring countries.

“Between February 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations,” the declaration said.

“These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions,” it added.

Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have thronged the streets of Venezuela over the past weeks, holding rallies in support and against Maduro, who began his second six-year term in office last month.

The clashes began after Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” and urged Maduro to resign.

The US rushed to support Guaido, announcing sanctions on the country’s oil industry.

According to the Havana declaration, the drastic sanctions imposed by the US were causing damage “1,000 times greater” than the aid Washington was reportedly trying to force on the country.

US special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams dismissed the Cuban announcement as “a new lie.”

The Dominican Republic’s foreign minister, Miguel Vargas, also reiterated support for a peaceful solution and said no US military transport planes had landed in his country.

Besides the US, other major Western powers such as the UK, France, Spain and Germany have recognized Guaido as president.

Russia, China, Iran and Turkey are some of the countries that have thrown their support behind Maduro.

In a recent interview with CBS, Trump said military action against Maduro remained “an option.”

Other US officials have also doubled down on the possibility of military action, with National Security Adviser John Bolton going as far as warning the Venezuelan military to join Guaido and take his “amnesty” before they lose the chance.

However, Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, made it clear on Wednesday that the US Congress won’t allow Trump tp launch a military intervention in Venezuela.

Under US law, Congress must approve foreign military action and the president doesn’t have the power to act on his own.

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