The US invoked a regional defence pact on Wednesday with 10 other countries and Venezuela’s opposition after “bellicose” moves by Nicolas Maduro’s regime.
A request to invoke the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) came from the Venezuelan opposition, said a statement from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, retweeted early on Thursday by US President Donald Trump.
“Recent bellicose moves by the Venezuelan military to deploy along the border with Colombia as well as the presence of illegal armed groups and terrorist organisations in Venezuelan territory demonstrate that Nicolas
Maduro not only poses a threat to the Venezuelan people, his actions threaten the peace and security of Venezuela’s neighbours,” Pompeo said.
Venezuela was thrust into a political crisis in January when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro’s authority over the country from which millions have fled economic deprivation.
The opposition branded the socialist leader a “usurper” after his re-election last year in a poll widely viewed as rigged.
Pompeo said in the statement that invoking the pact is “recognition of the increasingly destabilizing influence” the Maduro regime exerts on the region.
“Catastrophic economic policies and political repression continue to drive this unprecedented refugee crisis, straining the ability of governments to respond,” he said.
“We look forward to furthering high-level discussions with fellow TIAR parties, as we come together to collectively address the urgent crisis raging within Venezuela and spilling across its border through the consideration of multilateral economic and political options.”
On Tuesday Venezuela’s armed forces chiefs said they had begun mobilising 150,000 troops for military exercises on the Colombian border, after accusing Colombia of plotting to spark a military conflict.
Last week Maduro said Colombia was using the rejection by dissident FARC leaders of a peace accord to try to provoke a military conflict and said he was placing his forces on high alert. Meanwhile, Colombia’s right-wing President Ivan Duque had accused Maduro of sheltering FARC dissidents.
Venezuela’s National Assembly – which Guaido leads – in July decided to re-join the TIAR, which could provide a legal framework for foreign military intervention.
But the country’s Supreme Court annulled the decision to join.
Guaido is backed by more than 50 nations, including the US and many others in the TIAR, which was originally ratified by 23 countries at the start of the Cold War.
Five of those – at the time all under leftist governments – left in 2012, while Mexico distanced itself in 2004.
Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela withdrew from TIAR over Washington’s refusal to take Argentina’s side in 1982 after it invaded the British-ruled Falkland Islands.