HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba charged on Thursday that the United States was secretly moving special forces closer to Venezuela as part of a plan to intervene in the South American country using the pretext of a humanitarian crisis.
General view of opposition supporters taking part in a rally to commemorate the Day of the Youth and to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Adriana Loureiro
A “Declaration of the Revolutionary Government” charged recent events in the country amounted to an attempted coup that had so far failed.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has been trying to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to step down and hand over power to Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly.
Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.
These events, the declaration said, had led the United States to impose drastic sanctions causing damage “1000 times greater” than the aid it is trying to force on the country.
“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 said.
Venezuela, a major oil producer, is in the throes of a severe economic crisis with a dramatic drop in output and six-digit inflation wreaking havoc on the livelihoods of residents and sending an estimated three million of them searching for sustenance in neighboring countries.
Cuba has been a key backer of the Venezuelan government since what is called the Bolivarian Revolution began under former leader Hugo Chavez in 1998.
Most Western and Latin American countries, including the United States, quickly recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and pledged millions of dollars in humanitarian aid in support. The aid has begun arriving along the border with Colombia and Brazil.
Maduro’s socialist government retains the backing of Russia, China and many other nations, as well as control of state institutions including the military.
Guaido said on Tuesday the aid would roll across the border on February 23 despite the Maduro government’s objections, setting up a possible confrontation.
Cuba said on Thursday it was clear the United States wanted to “forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international protection, invoking the obligation to protect civilians and applying all necessary measures.”
Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama