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Why U.S. Military Intervention in Venezuela Is Now Less Likely

March 13, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement that all U.S. personnel would be withdrawn from the embassy in Caracas this week notes that the decision “reflects the deteriorating situation in Venezuela” and that the presence of those diplomats “has become a constraint on U.S. policy.” That last clause has prompted some speculation that military action is now more likely — but in this case, it’s evidence of the opposite.

Granted, the situation is tense. Diplomats loyal to Nicolas Maduro, the man most of the Western Hemisphere no longer recognizes as Venezuela’s leader, have accused the U.S. of arming defectors across the border in Colombia. Maduro himself blames the failure of his country’s decrepit electricity grid on a U.S. cyberattack. President Donald Trump and his top aides repeat the line that “all options” remain on the table. Meanwhile, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has warned that any military action “from the outside” would be unacceptable.

The most likely explanation for the removal of diplomats, however, is simply prudence. They could become “a trip wire for potential action,” said Eric Farnsworth, the vice president of the Council of the Americas. U.S. diplomats could be targeted by armed Maduro loyalists, Farnsworth told me, almost certainly prompting a U.S. military response...

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