WASHINGTON - The possible use of U.S. military force to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro raises concerns about the possible costs in lives and unintended consequences that may come from committing American troops to fight and die in another foreign conflict.

FILE - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24, 2019.
UN Chief: Days of Foreign Military Intervention in Latin America Over
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he hopes no foreign forces will enter Venezuela, saying the days of foreign intervention in Latin America are "long ago gone.""I was very encouraged by the demonstration last Saturday in which the demonstrations took place without violence," Guterres told VOA at the United Nations in New York on Tuesday. "Our strong appeal is to avoid all forms of violence that, of course, serve no purpose and benefit nobody."President Donald Trump has said U.S.

U.S. President Trump acknowledged in an interview Sunday the use of U.S. military force in Venezuela is “an option.”  But he also emphasized in State of the Union address Tuesday’s to Congress the need to draw down on costly military engagements around the world.

“As a candidate for President, I pledged a new approach.  Great nations do not fight endless wars,” said President Trump.

FILE - Navy Vice Adm. Craig Faller (R) talks with Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., after a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Admiral: US Military Ready to Protect Diplomats in Venezuela
U.S. military is prepared to protect U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities in Venezuela if needed, the U.S. admiral in charge of American forces in South America said on Thursday. "We are prepared to protect U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities if necessary," Navy Admiral Craig Faller, the head of U.S. Southern Command, said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He did not provide any details on how the U.S.

US objective

White House officials have clarified the U.S. objective in Venezuela is the peaceful transfer of power.

Most Latin American and European countries also support Venezuelan opposition claims the Maduro government is now illegitimate, after it barred most opposition candidates from running in last year’s election.  These nations have recognized Juan Guaido, the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim leader.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and first lad
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and first lady Cilia Flores acknowledge supporters at the end of a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Feb. 2, 2019.

In addition to political repression, Maduro’s socialist policies have brought the country with the world’s largest oil reserves to near economic ruin, with hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages, and an exodus of more than three million Venezuelans fleeing the upheaval and poverty in their country.

The Trump administration has relied on increasing diplomatic support for Guaido and economic sanctions that freeze Venezuela’s oil revenues to force Maduro out or persuade the military leadership to remove him from power.

Accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, center ri
Accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, center right, Venezuela's self proclaimed president Juan Guaido, arrives for a meet with university students at the Central University of Venezuela, in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, Feb. 9, 2019.

Military justification

Supporters of the military option cite the Maduro government’s alleged involvement in illegal drug trafficking, as well the growing flow of Venezuelan economic refugees in the region as justification.  Some Maduro critics say the Venezuelan people would welcome a U.S. led regional effort to force the entrenched leader from power.

“That seems to be a growing popular opinion by many Venezuelans, they view that the only way to get that this criminal government out of power is by a coercive force,” said Ana Quintana, Latin America policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington.

However military intervention opponents point out the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela does not pose a direct security threat to the United States.  And they worry  hawks in the Trump administration may be advocating for military solutions to try to resolve complex diplomatic, economic and political problems. 

“I think it is very dangerous, because it means that the actions that they propose are far out of proportion of, you know, really what is necessary to preserve us security interests,” said Alexander Main, a Latin America political analyst and director of International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at Iglesia Doral
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center on the political crisis in Venezuela on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Doral, Florida.

Senators Marco Rubio (Florida-Republican) and Lindsey Graham, (South Carolina-Republican), two key lawmakers that support increasing diplomatic economic sanctions against the Maduro government, have been reluctant to advocate for military intervention.

Canada and the Lima Group representing most Latin American nations have also cautioned against force to resolve the stand-off in Venezuela.

Guaido recently downplayed the need for U.S. intervention in Venezuela during an interview with VOA in which he said, “We will as a sovereign Venezuelan people do what is necessary to achieve stability in our country.”

Maduro has criticized Trump for threatening the use of military force in his country and said Venezuelans would resist U.S. aggression.

"And who do you think you are?  The emperor of the world?  Do you think that Venezuela is going to give up and will obey your orders?  Well for your information, Venezuela does not give up!  Venezuela keeps going!” Maduro said at a recent pro-government rally.

Troop deployment

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton first raised alarm about deploying U.S. forces to the region when he carried a notepad with a handwritten notation saying “5,000 troops to Colombia” during a news briefing about Venezuela oil sanctions.

Anti-government protesters stop a truck while blocking a highway with a small group of demonstrators who were returning from a peaceful demonstration called by self-declared interim president Juan Guaido to demand the resignation of President Nicolas
Canada, Latin America Rule Out Force in Venezuela
Canada and the Lima Group of Latin American nations are ruling out the use of force in Venezuela.The representatives meeting in Ottawa issued a joint statement Monday to "reiterate their support for a process of a peaceful transition through political and diplomatic means without the use of force."At one point, protesters interrupted the press conference by spreading out a banner reading "Hands Off Venezuela."Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland noted that the demonstrators had the right under…

“You could imagine a possibility that if there is a need to go into Venezuela and do humanitarian operations, or need to go into Venezuela to do other types of operations such as protecting the members of the Guaido government or members of the National Assembly at risk,” said Evan Ellis, a research professor of Latin American studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

But a U.S. military intervention in Venezuela could fracture support from Latin American counties that have been critical of past U.S. interventions in the region and could bolster Maduro’s image in Venezuela as a sympathetic and anti-imperialist leader.

“If the White House's goal is regime change in Venezuela, which appears to be the case, then they should be concerned that their actions are generating a backlash against the U.S. in Venezuela and in the region,” said Main.

The United States invaded Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, two small Latin American countries, with limited military operations.  But analysts caution a U.S. intervention in Venezuela, which is twice the size of Iraq and densely populated, could require a significant and sustained U.S. military commitment to succeed.


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