The US military has not been ordered by its leaders to prepare for any type of military action in Venezuela, Deputy Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs Kathryn Wheelbarger said during a congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“We, of course, always review available options and plan for contingencies,” Wheelbarger explained. “But in this case we have not been given (the) sort of orders that you’re discussing, no.”
The top uniformed U.S. military officer, Marine General Joseph Dunford, said he was focused on intelligence gathering and being prepared to respond, if Trump sought greater involvement by the Pentagon.
But he stressed that the military should act in a way that deepens its partnerships in Latin America — where the prospect of U.S. military intervention is deeply unpopular.
“I think it really is very, very important that we work with others in the region to solve this problem,” Dunford said.
US Navy Admiral Craig Faller, commander of the US Southern Command, who oversees US forces in Latin America, said the planning includes preparation for noncombatant evacuations and US humanitarian aid, but noted that his main focus in the region is building partnerships.
Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that US military action in Venezuela is “possible,” though he says the United States still prefers a peaceful transition to power.
Venezuela faces a political crisis that began in January when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó proclaimed himself the country’s interim president in an attempt to defy President Nicolás Maduro’s re-election.
Maduro, backed by China and Russia, among others, accused Guaidó of conspiring to overthrow him with the help of Washington.
Guaidó and his supporters made another attempt to throw Maduro on Tuesday, meeting in Caracas on a road in front of the military base of La Carlota. Guaidó asked the people of Venezuela and the army to take to the streets to complete the operation to overthrow the legitimate president of Venezuela.
In response, Maduro said that commanders from all regions and zones of integral defense had reiterated their complete loyalty to the people, to the constitution and to the homeland. According to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, the country’s armed forces continue to firmly support the “Constitution and legitimate authorities”.