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Cuba denies military presence in Venezuela

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez gives a press conference at the Foreign Ministry in Havana, Cuba, on February 19, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Cuba has denied accusations by the United States that it has deployed military forces to neighboring Venezuela, which is facing strong pressure by governments opposed to it.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Tuesday responded to US President Donald Trump, who said earlier that Havana “has deployed a private army in Venezuela.”

“Our government categorically and energetically rejects this slander,” Rodriguez said, adding that all of the nearly 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela were civilians, mostly health professionals.

“There is a big political and communications campaign underway, which are usually the prelude to larger actions by this [US] government,” the minister further said.

The US has several times threatened to take military action against Venezuela to topple the elected government of President Nicolas Maduro, amid protests against him over a political and economic crisis.

Washington has also recognized opposition figure Juan Guaido, who has declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela, exacerbating the crisis in the Latin American country.

Rodriguez also referred to a convoy of alleged humanitarian aid sent by the US but which has been blocked at the Venezuelan border. Washington has said it might use force to deploy into the Latin American country by Saturday if the convoy is not normally allowed.

“I reiterate, United States military transport flights are being carried out,” Rodriguez said. “We all watched the creation of the humanitarian pretext. A fixed date has been set for the forced entry of the humanitarian aid, via force, which in itself constitutes a contradiction.”

Rodriguez also called on the United Nations Security Council to “prevail in its responsibility as the main guarantor of international peace and security and not lend itself to military adventures.”

Cuba — a key ally of the Venezuelan government — accuses Trump of trying to install a “puppet” president in the country.

Venezuelan military on alert as US pushing for ‘aid’ shipments

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said on Tuesday that the military was on alert at the country’s frontiers after Guaido vowed to bring the alleged aid in from various points on Saturday “one way or another.”

“The armed forces will remain deployed and on alert... to avoid any violations of territorial integrity,” Padrino said.

The military recently reaffirmed its support for Maduro after Trump threatened it to abandon the president or face dire consequences. The defense minister, appearing alongside senior officers, said any attempt to impose a new government would have to be done over “our dead bodies.”

He also said the military had suspended air and sea links with the Dutch island of Curacao.

According to media reports, Venezuela has ordered the suspension of air and sea links with the nearby Netherlands Antilles islands of Aruba and Bonaire as well.

Meanwhile, Brazil said it will send humanitarian aid to its border with Venezuela by the weekend, but it would leave it to Venezuelans to take the goods over the border.

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