Military leaders meet to discuss U.S.-Colombia defense cooperation
The head of the U.S. Southern Command said Wednesday it is prepared to face any situation in Venezuela and warned its armed forces they will be held responsible if they don’t respond properly to the grave humanitarian crisis.
Adm. Craig Faller, head of the Doral-based command that runs U.S. military operations in South America and the Caribbean, spoke about Venezuela before a private meeting at his headquarters with Colombian armed forces chief Maj. Gen. Luis Navarro Jiménez, to discuss bilateral cooperation.
Asked by journalists if SouthCom is getting ready for a possible military intervention in Venezuela, Faller said President Donald Trump has been clear on the issue.
“The president has been clear and our obligation as professional military is to be ready,” he said.
He added, however, that the U.S. government is focused on “a diplomatic solution, as our leaders have indicated.” He said that “the only invasion that exists now is the one by the Cubans and Russians who are supporting the regime” of Venezuelan ruler Nicolas Maduro.
Trump has said that all options, including the use of the U.S. military, are on the table for resolving the oil-producing nation’s grave political and humanitarian crisis.
During his speech welcoming Navarro, Faller also sent a message to the Venezuelan armed forces.
“This message is for the Venezuelan military: In the end, you will be responsible for your own actions. Do the right thing. Save your people and your country,” he said.
Maduro has vowed to block the arrival of the humanitarian assistance — requested by his foe, Juan Guaidó, who declared himself interim president of Venezuela — which is now waiting in four places along the country’s borders.
Maduro said the aid is an excuse for a U.S. invasion of Venezuela, and has blocked one of the bridges on the border with Colombia.
Guaidó set Saturday as the day when thousands of volunteers will try to bring in the aid. Most of it is in the Colombian city of Cúcuta, one of the four international collection centers.
Navarro, asked about the possibility of violence erupting on Saturday, said the duty of his soldiers is to “protect the civilian population” and he hopes his Venezuelan counterparts “will protect their people as well.”
“The Colombian armed forces, in coordination with other government entities, have prepared the logistics for handling any kind of risky situation for the civilian population. We have to help,” Navarro added.
Faller said it’s up to the Venezuelan armed forces to do the right thing and declared that “the dictator Maduro has stolen the future of his people.”
SouthCom has cooperated with the U.S. State Department and the Agency for International Development transporting the humanitarian assistance to Venezuela’s borders. But Navarro said the aid is purely humanitarian.
“For us, this is not a military operation,” he said. “As soldiers, we are convinced that we have to help our people rather than rejecting humanitarian help.”