Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Venezuela Post 7: Secretary Pompeo Withdraws All Diplomats

Road to War?

Two documents issued on March 11 raise greater concern about prospects for war in Venezuela.  Secretary Pompeo's view that having diplomatic staff in Caracas is a constraint suggests getting them out of the way of military attack by the US or its allies.   Were the game limited to political, economic and diplomatic pressure, we would want them there. 
Secretary Pompeo@SecPompeo
The U.S. will withdraw all remaining personnel from @usembassyve this week. This decision reflects the deteriorating situation in #Venezuela as well as the conclusion that the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy.
8:50 PM - 11 Mar 2019
I noted this reply to  the Secretary's tweet:

George Dienemann  @gdienemann

 @SecPompeo @usembassyve

I remember being at the Panama Airport doing a stopover in Mexico on December 15th of ' 89 and witnessed the evacuation of the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Panama. 4 days later, Panama was invaded and rescued from the Noriega dictatorship.
My tweets to the Secretary
Replying to @SecPompeo @usembassyve You will regret for the rest of your life if Bolton, Claver Carone and Abrams lead you down the rabbit hole of war in Venezuela. A political solution is possible if it is comprehensive, i.e. includes end of Cuba embargo.
Replying to @SecPompeo @usembassyve  A less comprehensive political solution is also possible working with the International Contact Group, Mexico and Cuba to bring about UN supervised elections organized by existing Administration of Maduro and Guaido as President of National Assembly.
Replying to @SecPompeo @usembassyve   Humanitarian crisis can be addressed by admission of depoliticized humanitarian aid through ICRC, UNICEF, etc. and restoration of international economic resources to existing administration.

Cuban Government Statement on Cyber Attacks on Venezuelan Power System, Role of Cubans in Venezuela, and Danger of Military Intervention
Cuba issued a strong statement condemning "the terrorist sabotage against the power supply system"confirming its large medical and educational presence in Venezuela and denying any military role.  The government also warned:
This is an escalation of a non-conventional war led by the US government against that sister nation, which is taking place after the failed provocation  orchestrated on February 23 with the intention of carrying by force an alleged humanitarian aid into Venezuela, thus challenging the legitimate authorities of that country and violating International Law and the principles and norms of the United Nations Charter, with the purpose of causing widespread death and violence as a pretext for a "humanitarian intervention."

The experience of Cuba's own history and the history of other countries in the region show that these actions are a prelude of violent acts of a larger scope, as was the case of the armed invasion through Bay of Pigs in 1961.  The international community has accumulated sufficient evidence to be on the alert.
The usurper and self-proclaimed "president" made in the US has publicly said that, when the time comes, he would invoke Article 187 of the Constitution to authorize the use of foreign military missions in the country; and has repeated exactly the same phrase used by his American mentors: "All options are on the table."
He just needs to receive an order from Washington, since it is known that, during his tour around South America, he already asked certain governments to support a military intervention in his country.

A More Cautious Interpretation

Sam Vinograd who worked in the Obama Administration is currently a CNN national security analyst and a senior adviser to Biden and Obama.  She posted on twitter a less dramatic reading of the withdrawal of US embassy personnel:

1. The safety and security of US personnel at diplomatic posts overseas relies, in part, on host country guarantees for their safety. 
2. Maduro has escalated potential threats to our personnel by blaming us for launching a coup against him and for the blackout - he uses any excuse to round up people he doesn't like and this could have extended to US diplomats / his lies could have incited violence against us
3. The US intel community regularly monitors threats to US personnel and in a tense security situation like the one in VZ today, the IC would likely have been sharing daily threat assessments with @SecPompeo and @AmbJohnBolton and possibly @POTUS
 4. Maintaining a diplomatic presence in Caracas was prob based on a cost/ benefit analysis including are our diplomats able to do their jobs; will we lose out on too much info/ access if we draw down; are the threats manageable and more. 
At least part of the explanation may be that the Venezuelan government terminated discussions over interest sections and ordered all US diplomats to leave.

The position of the US had been that the Maduro government  could not order our diplomats to leave because it was not the government, and the symbolic Guaido regime that we recognize wanted us to stay.  Thus it was a little awkward to acknowledge that we were withdrawing because we had been told to do so by a non-existing government.

Nevertheless, we are still left with Secretary Pompeo's statement that "the presence of U.S. diplomatic staff at the embassy has become a constraint on U.S. policy". 

Was that a warning intended to signal US citizens living in Venezuela who would be at risk during military conflict and have no consular services?  Or was it more psychological warfare (like the derecognition and border aid confrontation) based on the questionable ideological premise that the Venezuelan military could be frightened into abandoning its government?  Are the Cubans reading the signals correctly or overreacting based on their ideological assumptions about US intentions?

Senator Murphy gave a very good interview on the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC Monday night.  He and Ben Rhodes seem to be the most visible challengers of the slide to war.  The only down side was that Rachel's lead-in greatly understated the role of the US in creating and pushing the Guaido option.

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