Puebla, Mexico, February 2, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro could be overthrown by a military uprising, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hinted on Thursday.
Describing Venezuela’s armed forces as a possible “agent of change”, Tillerson suggested the military could “manage a peaceful transition” should they remove Maduro from office.
“In the history of Venezuela and in fact the history in other Latin American and South American countries, often at times, it is the military that handles that (an undemocratic transition between governments),” he said.
He continued, “When things are so bad that the military leadership realises that it just can’t serve the citizens anymore, they will manage a peaceful transition.”
Tillerson continued by stating he was unsure “whether that will be the case here or not”.
The secretary of state continued by denying he was advocating regime change.
“We have not advocated for regime change or for the removal of President Maduro. We have advocated that they return to the constitution,” he said. US spokespersons claim that the election of Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly in July violated the constitution, however Venezuela's High Supreme Court ruled at the time that the calling of the Constituent elections was perfectly in line with the wording of Venezuela's 1999 Constitution.
Tillerson also suggested that in this case, Maduro could be exiled to Cuba.
“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,” Tillerson said, arguing his peaceful ouster would be preferable to violence.
"Peaceful transitions, peaceful regime change, is always better than the alternative,” he said.
Venezuela’s military leadership responded Friday by labelling Tillerson’s comments as “interventionist”, and reaffirming thier support for the democratically elected government of Nicolas Maduro.
Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said Tillerson’s remarks were a sign the US was moving away from diplomacy, and potentially preparing for military action. The US controls numerous military bases close to the Venezuelan border in Colombia, and patrols much of Venezuela's northern coastline.
"You are right [Tillerson], there are problems [in Venezuela], but you should know that the United States is obvious [in its] intervention: financial persecution, to create chaos, anarchy and destabilisation," stated Padrino.
Tillerson has repeatedly called for a change of government in Caracas since being appointed secretary of state in early 2017. Prior to entering politics, Tillerson had served as oil giant ExxonMobil’s CEO for over a decade. During much of that time, ExxonMobil was locked in a series of legal disputes with the governments of Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Last year, ExxonMobil’s legal efforts suffered a major setback, when a World Bank tribunal partially overturned a decision that had ordered Venezuela pay the company US1.6 billion in compensation for Chavez-era asset nationalisations. Later that year, the Trump administration announced it may consider a military option in Venezuela.
Venezuela has responded in the past by accusing Washington of aggression, with Maduro describing Trump’s US as “the most criminal empire in the history of mankind”. In one tweet, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza accused Trump of “obsessively dedicating himself to attacking Venezuela”.
Venezuela shores up regional diplomacy
The US secretary of state’s comments were made during a speech at the University of Texas, ahead of a planned regional tour of Latin America. As Tillerson made his latest remarks, Arreaza began his own regional diplomatic tour to improve ties with neighbouring countries. The tour began in Cuba, where Arreaza called for renewed cooperation, and solidarity against what he said was aggression from Washington.
"[Cuba and Venezuela] are under the eye of the [US] empire in this new stage in which we can say that, with the arrival of Donald Trump, imperialism has escalated to a higher level," Arreaza said.