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Venezuelan Opposition Looks to Foreign Allies for Further Steps to Unseat Maduro

February 24, 2019

The Trump administration is preparing to make a more forceful push this week to unseat Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, after a weekend plan to coax his military to abandon him and allow in hundreds of tons of humanitarian aid ended in deadly violence and with little clarity about what comes next.

Vice President Pence will travel to Colombia on Monday to meet with regional leaders — including the head of the Venezuelan opposition, Juan Guaidó — and discuss potential options for a more muscular front against Maduro. While the White House originally cast Saturday’s aid push on the Venezuelan border as a potential tipping point for ousting Maduro, administration officials said Sunday that the weekend’s violence had frustrated those plans, making new action necessary...

U.S. forces, experts say, could take out Venezuela’s air defenses within hours, but an outright U.S. invasion would be unprecedented in South America. It also risks deep divisions in the region and could potentially spark a guerrilla war by leftists while leaving Washington with the burden of rebuilding a failed state.

More-surgical strikes — like the U.S. operation that nabbed Panama’s Manuel Antonio Noriega in 1989 — remain potentially more likely, but they also present massive problems.

“When Noriega left, the regime collapsed, and there wasn’t much behind him,” said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and the Americas Society. “In Venezuela, you can decapitate the regime, but there will still be [leftists] and armed goon squads who may be spoiling to fight.” ...

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