Venezuela’s Maduro may be kicked out by own military & get ‘nice’ exile in Cuba, Tillerson hints
Issuing an ambiguous threat to Venezuela, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the army has often been an “agent of change” in the Latin American country and beyond in cases when leadership “can no longer serve the people.”
“In the history of Venezuela and South American countries, it is often times that the military is the agent of change when things are so bad and the leadership can no longer serve the people," Tillerson said at the University of Texas in Austin on Thursday.
When the people’s patience runs out, the military then “will manage a peaceful transition,” Tillerson said, avoiding terms usually associated with such a chain of events, such as “military coup” or “overthrow.”
The ousting of Maduro is not something Washington aspires to or plots, Tillerson said, noting that “whether that will be the case here or not, I do not know.”
“We have not advocated for regime change or removal of President Maduro. We have advocated that they return to the constitution,” he stated, adding that Maduro’s political fate will depend on the outcome of elections.
“And then, if he is not re-elected by the people, so be it,” Tillerson said. The latest national election held in Venezuela - the one that led to the inauguration of the National Constituent Assembly in August - was not recognized by Washington, which slapped the country with several rounds of sanctions targeting the financial and energy sectors of the oil-rich country.
The Constituent Assembly, convened to rewrite the constitution, took over the opposition-led National Congress. The election campaign and its aftermath were marred by large-scale opposition protests and violence, which led to over 100 people being killed in the clashes.
As popular outrage mounted, President Maduro and his government said the protests had been inspired from abroad, suggesting that outside pressure played a role in making the country’s economic hardship even worse. Meanwhile, anti-government protests were met with massive rallies in support of Maduro, with the largest pro-government demonstrations taking place in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
Washington has not recognized the outcome of Venezuela’s gubernatorial elections, in which President Nicholas Maduro’s Socialist party grabbed 17 out of 23 state governorship last October. The US has accused Maduro of nurturing “an authoritarian dictatorship.”
While insisting that Washington was not pushing for Maduro to be ousted, Tillerson touted the idea that the Venezuelan president should consider leaving the country voluntarily before things get heated.
“Then, if the kitchen gets a little too hot for him, I am sure that he’s got some friends over in Cuba that could give him a nice hacienda on the beach and he could have a nice life over there,” he said.
Maduro has repeatedly accused Washington of “aggression” and meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs, with the ultimate goal of promoting regime change. In September, Maduro said that the army should be ready to defend the country’s sovereignty, which was being “blatantly threatened by the most criminal empire in the history of mankind.”
In August, US President Donald Trump indicated that a military operation might be on the cards. “A military option is certainly something we could pursue,” he said at the time. However, the Pentagon denied that it had been tasked with devising a potential military scenario for Venezuela.
Tillerson was speaking ahead of his first multi-nation Latin America tour, during which he is set to visit Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Jamaica.
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