By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas
Caracas, May 8, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – United States National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster released an official statement Saturday expressing the need for a “quick and peaceful solution” to Venezuela’s “ongoing crisis”.
The press release was made public after McMaster met with Venezuelan opposition leader and current National Assembly President Julio Borges at the White House earlier that day.
It reads: “They [Borges and McMaster] discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and the need for the government to adhere to the Venezuelan Constitution, release political prisoners, respect the National Assembly, and hold free and democratic elections.”
The statement has sparked alarm in Venezuela and amongst international movements in solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. They have likened Saturday’s meeting to a series of similar encounters that took place between US officials and opposition figures just before a short-lived coup against former President Hugo Chavez Frias in 2002.
The meeting comes as Washington hardens its stance vis-a-vis the Maduro government. Last week, a bipartisan group of US senators presented a bill to Congress asking for sanctions on more Venezuelan officials in a bid to further isolate Caracas in the region.
Violent protests have rocked the South American country since the beginning of April when a stand-off between the leftist national government and the opposition-controlled National Assembly came to a head. So far, 42 people have lost their lives in the unrest, which has seen armed opposition protesters block roads, gun down government supporters, set fire to public institutions, and clash with security forces. At least 15 people have been killed by protesters, while a further five have died at the hands of authorities.
Despite the deadly unrest, opposition leaders have said that they will boycott a constituent assembly called by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as a way out of the impasse and have continued to call for their supporters to take to the streets.
The situation was brought to the attention of the United Nations this past Saturday, after Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, took aim at the Venezuelan government, accusing it of a “crackdown” on dissent in an official statement.
Anonymous sources have told Venezuelanalysis that the US is quietly pushing to table Venezuela as a discussion point at the UN Security Council but the move has so far been met with resistance from other nations.
The move to turn up the pressure on Venezuela comes as the United States escalates its military involvement in the region.
Over the weekend, the head of the Brazilian the armed forces, Theofilo de Oliveira, revealed that the US will also lead multinational military drilling exercises between Brazil, Colombia and Peru later this year as part of a 2015 NATO project.
A temporary military base will also be set up in the Brazilian town of Tabatinga on the Amazonian frontier between the three countries as part of the programme, confirmed the armed forces chief.
The military exercises have been described as “unprecedented” in the region.