The New York Times published an article today in which it revealed that the White House has been holding “secret meetings” with Venezuelan army officers plotting to overthrow Maduro over the past year. The newspaper cites White House officials and a former Venezuelan army officer who took part in the talks as sources.
According to the newspaper, at least one of the Venezuelan army officers with whom the White House engaged is on a U.S. “sanctions list of corrupt officials”.
The New York Times claims that the coup discussions fizzled out, and that the White House decided to not provide any assistance to the renegade officers.
On why the White House decided to take such a risk in the first place, The New York Times writes:
But as the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela worsened last year, American officials felt that having a clearer picture of the plans and the men who aspired to oust Mr. Maduro was worth the risk.
“After a lot of discussion, we agreed we should listen to what they had to say,” said a senior administration official who was not authorized to speak about the secret talks.
While Washington planned to send a veteran CIA official to Venezuela to participate in the talks, it instead decided to send a “career diplomat” who was instructed to attend the plotters’ meetings “purely on listening mode”. On th interaction between the two sides, the newspaper writes:
After the first meeting, which took place in the fall of 2017, the diplomat reported that the Venezuelans didn’t appear to have a detailed plan and had showed up at the encounter hoping the Americans would offer guidance or ideas, officials said.
The former Venezuelan commander said that the rebellious officers never asked for an American military intervention. “I never agreed, nor did they propose, to do a joint operation,” he said.
The article claims that the plotters considered pulling the trigger on their plan to overthrow Maduro first during last year’s anti-government protesters, then in March of this year, and then in May. All three times the plan was either leaked or aborted.
Because the plotters’ plan rested on their ability to simultaneously capture top ranking regime officials, they felt that they needed a reliable and secure way to communicate with each other. When they asked the White House for technological assistance to accomplish this, “senior officials turned [the request] down”.
According to the article, the two sides met earlier this year to no effect:
The American diplomat then met the coup plotters a third time early this year, but the discussions did not result in a promise of material aid or even a clear signal that Washington endorsed the rebels’ plans, according to the Venezuelan commander and several American officials.
The Maduro regime has long maintained that it exists under constant threat from the United States.
By late May, at least 40 military officers had been detained in 2018, presumably for disloyalty to the regime. In March, authorities arrested former Minister of the Interior Miguel Rodriguez Torres, and accused of him treason for allegedly conspiring to overthrow Maduro.
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