Source: Mint Press News
Tensions Rise As US Announces Military Drills Near Embattled Venezuela
The involvement of the U.S. military in an upcoming multilateral military drill in South America has raised concerns over potential ulterior motives on the part of the U.S. The drill, dubbed “Operation: America United,” will involve the installation of a temporary military base on the triple border shared by the drill’s other participating nations: Peru, Brazil and Colombia.
According to Theofilo de Oliveira, the top general of the Brazilian Armed Forces, the U.S. military will carry out the drill along with the three Latin American nations this November over a period of ten days. The Brazilian military has asserted that the objective of the exercise is to “ develop greater knowledge, share experiences and develop mutual trust.” Brazilian government officials have strongly denied rumors that the exercise will lead to the establishment of a multinational military base in the Amazon.
The U.S. was invited to participate by Brazil’s unelected president Michel Temer, who has notably boosted Brazilian military spending by 36 percent while simultaneously freezing public spending for two decades through a controversial constitutional amendment.
A friendly relationship with Brazil’s military is key for the U.S.’ strategic interest in South America. As Hector Luis Saint Pierre – coordinator of international security, defense and strategy at the Brazilian Association of International Relations – told the BBC: “Brazil is a strategic partner for the doctrine of the military. If the United States has a good relationship with the Brazilian navy, it is easier to spread its message among the military in the region.”
Pierre pointed out that the drill is of particular interest to the U.S., as it presents an opportunity to focus on the political situation in Venezuela. According to Telesur, President Donald Trump has already met with the presidents of Peru and Colombia to discuss the U.S.’ interest in Venezuela.
As MintPress has previously reported, Venezuela has been the target of ongoing economic warfare as the U.S. continues to disrupt the leftist government first brought to power by the late Hugo Chávez. While Nicolás Maduro – Chávez’s successor – certainly bears some of the blame for Venezuela’s current situation, the U.S. has worked to covertly devastate the Venezuelan economy through a combination of sanctions and oil price manipulation.
With its cash reserves quickly dwindling as a result, Maduro’s embattled government will likely go bankrupt at some point in the next several months, as nearly 70 percent of its remaining reserves must be used to pay back interest on loans from foreign governments. When “Operation: America United” begins, the situation in Venezuela is highly likely to be much more dire and Maduro’s government on the verge of collapse.
In addition, the U.S. has funneled millions to Venezuelan opposition parties since the failed U.S.-led coup against Chávez in 2002, having spent an estimated $50 to $60 million since Chávez’s election on bolstering the country’s right wing. Now, that figure is set to grow substantially as the U.S. Senate is set to vote on a bill that would funnel millions more to the Venezuelan opposition, as well as unnamed non-government organizations.
The bill, titled the “Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act,” seeks to offer $10 million in “humanitarian assistance” to Venezuela and another $10 million for “democracy promotion.”
As the bill itself points out, the U.S. is extremely interested in the financial situation in Venezuela, particularly due to U.S. concerns that Russia may gain control of Venezuelan oil infrastructure if the Maduro government ends up declaring bankruptcy.
Within the text of the bill, concerns are raised regarding Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA and its transactions with Rosneft, a Russian state-owned oil company. As TeleSur noted: “fearful that PDVSA could default on its $4- and $5-billion dollar loans from Rosneft, regardless of Venezuela’s steadfast debt repayments, the bill warned that Rosneft could come into control of PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, CITGO Petroleum Corporation, which ‘controls critical energy infrastructure in 19 States in the United States.’” Seeing as Russia has already seized Venezuelan oil for unpaid bills despite their political alliance, this fear is not unfounded.
While the U.S. has held drills in South America in the past with little fanfare, the timing and location of the new drill, as well as the nations involved in it, have raised speculation about the U.S.’ current objectives in South America.
Given the U.S. fear of Venezuelan oil becoming the property of the Russian government, as well as the U.S.’ documented history of overthrowing and undermining leftist governments in Venezuela, “Operation: American United” may be less of a drill and more of what its name implies – a way to bring Venezuela, along with other South American nations, back into the fold of U.S. influence.