President Donald Trump called on Russia to pull its troops out of Venezuela on March 27, following reports that two Russian military planes touched down in Caracas over the weekend with about 100 soldiers aboard.
“Russia has to get out,” Trump told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office. There, he was meeting with Fabiana Rosales, the wife of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó.
“All options” are on the table if Russia doesn’t move the military forces, he said, Reuters reported.
When asked how the United States will force Russia out of the socialist Latin American country, Trump replied, “We’ll see.”
Rosales met with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, and they expressed their support for Guaidó, who invoked the Venezuelan constitution to assume the interim presidency in January. About 50 countries, including the United States and most of South America, support him.
China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, and Cuba have declared their support for socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Guaidó has said Maduro’s regime isn’t legitimate.
“The United States views Russia’s arrival of military planes this weekend as an unwelcome provocation,” Pence told reporters March 27.
“We call on Russia today to cease all support of the Maduro regime and stand with Juan Guaidó, and stand with nations across this hemisphere and across the world until freedom is restored,” Pence continued.
Venezuela recently has been hit by power outages, food shortages, rioting, and looting amid the country’s constitutional crisis.
Two Planes Land
Reports on March 24 said that an Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 military plane arrived at the airport in Caracas. A local journalist posted photos of the planes on Twitter.
Russian and Venezuelan officials haven’t issued any statements about the two Russian planes.
According to The Guardian, the Russian officials are there to discuss equipment maintenance, training, and strategy.
An unnamed Russian official was quoted as saying that there was “nothing mysterious” about the visit. “It would be wrong to suggest this is some kind of major deployment,” another person said.
The move was blasted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“The Secretary told Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States and regional countries will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela. The continued insertion of Russian military personnel to support the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela risks prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people who overwhelmingly support interim President Juan Guaidó,” according to a statement from the State Department on March 25.
Pompeo called on the Kremlin to cease its “unconstructive behavior and join other nations, including the overwhelming majority of countries in the Western Hemisphere, who seek a better future for the Venezuelan people.”
Months ago, Russia sent strategic, nuclear-capable bombers to Venezuela.
Hoy llegaron al aeropuerto Internacional de Maiquetía estos dos aviones de la Fuerza Aerea rusa.
1 Ilyushin Il-62M
1 Antomov 124
Fotos: cortesía pic.twitter.com/w7hgQhyivr
— Federico Black B. (@FedericoBlackB) March 23, 2019
Maduro Under Pressure
Maduro, over the weekend, stated there would be a shakeup in his government after months of turmoil.
“I will in the coming hours announce new government methods and a profound change in the entire government of Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech broadcast via state TV, according to Bloomberg News.
“We need to renew ourselves, refresh, improve, change,” she said, without detailing how.
Amid the calls for a new direction, Maduro also called on his supporters to mobilize and arm themselves to defend his socialist regime.
Meanwhile, the U.S. sanctions, he added, won’t force him to “surrender,” according to the news outlet.