The U.S. military's top official for Latin America presented an ominous report to the Senate Thursday warning that Venezuela could be a "destabilizing" factor in Latin America.
"Venezuela faces significant instability in the coming year due to widespread food, and medicine shortages; continued political uncertainty; and a worsening economic situation," said Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, the commander of the United States Souther Command in his report to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"The growing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela could eventually compel a regional response."
The United States Southern Command, or USSOUTHCOM, is a joint command of more than 1,201 military and civilian personnel representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several other federal agencies.
The U.S. military leader also said that the relationships fostered by Russia, China and Iran with countries in the region pose a threat to U.S. interests.
"Over the past decade, China, Russia, and Iran have established a greater presence in the region ... These global actors view the Latin American economic, political, and security arena as an opportunity to achieve their respective long-term objectives and advance interests that may be incompatible with ours and those of our partners," Tidd says in the document.
The statements come amid renewed pressure by the United States and other countries on Venezuela, including a statement passed by 17 delegations at a controversial meeting of the Organization of American States this week. The OAS motion called for the restoration of the authority of Venezuela's National Assembly — considered to be "in contempt" by the country's Supreme Court due to the swearing in of three legislators whose elections were overturned for fraud in 2016 — and the release of "political prisoners."
Events at the OAS have been followed up by calls from right-wing leaders in Venezuela to force out the court's magistrates through street demonstrations, some of which have turned violent as opposition protesters have attacked police.
Within the South American nation, government leaders have continued to raise concerns about intervention into the country's affairs, including the possibility of U.S. military intervention.
The declaration of Venezuela as a "threat to U.S. national security" passed by the Obama Administration continues to be in effect, and Venezuelan leaders have long warned that the executive decree could as a pretext foreign intervention.