Tribune News Service /Miami
The US special envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said the US government is not “closer” to a military intervention in Venezuela, but warned that Colombia would have full American support in case of an attack by terrorist groups or the Venezuelan armed forces.
Abrams also ruled out that US support for Venezuelan interim president Juan Guaido’s efforts to join the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) meant a possible US military action.
“The US is not closer (to a military conflict with Venezuela), but I do worry a lot about the Colombian-Venezuelan border,” Abrams said in a videoconference from Brussels, where he was discussing the Venezuelan crisis with members of the European Union.
“I worry about the presence of the ELN and the Farc in Venezuela,” he said. “I worry about the intentions of the (Nicolas) Maduro regime with the military exercises that Maduro has ordered in the border area.”
Abrams said the US has intelligence information confirming the presence of members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Venezuela.
The diplomat said that Ivan Marquez, one of the Farc commanders who broke the peace agreement, “is in Venezuela. And his video announcing the return to combat was made in Venezuela. This is very dangerous, because if there are cross-border attacks from Venezuela into Colombia, we can expect the Colombians to react. And obviously, we would be fully supportive of Colombia in that situation.”
Abrams’ statements confirm those of Colombian President Ivan Duque, who after the publication of the video by Marquez and other commanders at the end of August, accused Maduro of hosting and supporting the Farc members. Maduro, meanwhile, has denied the accusations and ordered military exercises on the border with Colombia, which has increased tensions in the region.
On Monday, Maduro activated the defence council to discuss actions against an alleged military threat from the Colombian government, which Maduro accuses of planning terrorist plots against Venezuela.
Abrams reiterated his government’s support for Colombia if the attack comes from military forces loyal to Maduro.
“I hope (the military exercises) are just a political act without any security or military meaning,” he said. “I hope (the armed forces of Venezuela) are not crazy enough to engage in any kind of attacks on Colombia, and it is certainly the case that Colombia will have full American support if that happens.”
At the same time, the special envoy said that while the military option remains on the table, as President Donald Trump and other officials have said on several occasions, it is not the current policy of the US government.
Both Abrams and Carlos Trujillo, the US ambassador to the Organisation of American States, told reporters that invoking the TIAR – also known as the Rio Treaty – did not necessarily mean that Guaido would have military support from the US, an expectation that had grown within Venezuela, especially within the opposition.
“It is wrong to think – some people do – that, oh, this is military action, this is the invasion,” Abrams said.
In a call with journalists from Washington, Trujillo clarified that “the purpose of the TIAR is not to invoke military force. The purpose of the TIAR is to seek a legal framework that did not exist until now so that the member countries can move forward and put more pressure on Venezuela to seek a democratic change.”
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