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Rick Scott calls for U.S. military intervention in Venezuela

Trump administration policy maneuvering suggests the Florida senator's wish has a good chance of coming true.

Paramedics attend two men who were wounded in a clash with police forces on April 30, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. CREDIT: Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images
Paramedics attend two men who were wounded in a clash with police forces on April 30, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. CREDIT: Edilzon Gamez/Getty Images

After self-appointed interim President Juan Guaidó mobilized elements of the Venezuelan military against the entrenched regime of Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday morning, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) called for U.S. armed forces to join the uprisings directly.

“President Trump should immediately position American military assets to be ready to deliver aid to the people and defend freedom and democracy as well as U.S. national security interests in our hemisphere,” Scott said in a statement.

Violence escalated rapidly in Venezuela after Guaidó announced that he’d freed fellow opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from a years-long house arrest enforced by Maduro and his loyalists. Maduro’s legitimacy as president crumbled after he dissolved the national parliament in 2017 and banned opposing parties from competing in the 2018 snap election. The U.S., along with numerous other international, powers have formally recognized Guaidó’s claim to the presidency, while Russia has reportedly sent troops to the country to back Maduro internally.

Scott’s Tuesday call to ready a U.S. military campaign fits the approach that he and other prominent U.S. officials have foreshadowed since the start of the year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointedly refused to rule out an invasion in a February television interview. Scott has said for weeks that U.S. troops should be used to deliver humanitarian aid.

But not everyone in public office here has been so openly itchy for injecting U.S. troops into the troubled nation’s constitutional crisis. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), and other conservative elected officials portrayed the complex civil conflict within Venezuela as a simple duel between “freedom” and “socialism.” Reps. Will Hurd (R-TX), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and others tweeted that they “stand with” Guaidó’s allies without suggesting direct U.S. military engagement.

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Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) similarly celebrated Guaidó’s push to topple Maduro without mentioning a potential U.S. role in the country. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-TX) and Ro Khanna (D-CA), meanwhile, pointedly warned Trump’s administration against the interventionism Scott called for.

Whatever modest diversity of opinion is visible in congressional statements here, the White House’s personnel choices align with Scott’s more bellicose rhetoric.

President Donald Trump’s intelligence briefings are now largely shaped by career saber-rattler John Bolton, who accepted the role of National Security Adviser after he was unable to win confirmation for a second stint as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations. Pompeo brought veteran Cold War coup-facilitator Elliot Abrams in from the cold this January — two years after Trump reportedly revoked a job offer upon discovering Abrams had written critically of him during the 2016 election — to serve as a Special Liaison to Juan Guaidó’s self-declared official government.

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Abrams’ recruitment evokes the long and dirty history of U.S. interference in Latin American countries on a staffing level. Maduro’s government has accused Trump’s government of reviving that history in direct fashion, claiming that a U.S.-chartered private airplane that made at least eight documented trips to Venezuela in January and February had been used to deliver weapons to Guaidó’s supporters.