When experts gather to discuss security issues in Latin America, they inevitably talk about Venezuela. That was also the case on May 22, at Florida International University’s Fourth Annual Hemispheric Security Conference, where U.S. Navy Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), led the discussions.
Not surprisingly, Adm. Faller was bombarded with questions by local media, scholars, senior analysts, and students about the current situation in Venezuela, and more specifically, if the U.S. has plans for a military intervention in the South American country. “My job in the military is to be ready, to be on the balls of my feet," Adm. Faller said. "And I’ve intentionally not gone into any more detail on that because it would be inappropriate. The military never gives away what it’s doing. Otherwise, the enemy would know.” He continued: "What we're particularly focused on is planning for when there's a legitimate government [in Venezuela], when that legitimate government needs support for their security services."
However, Adm. Faller said that a military intervention doesn’t necessarily mean boots on the ground. He cited as an example the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which will be deployed mid-June to South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. “This deployment responds directly to the man-made crisis Maduro’s regime has created,” the admiral said. “Comfort medical teams will be working alongside host nation medical professionals, who are absorbing thousands of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The Venezuelan people are desperately fleeing their homeland for a better way of life. We are committed to finding ways to support the Venezuelan people and our regional partners who share the goal of seeing a legitimate, democratic government reinstated in Venezuela.”
Adm. Faller defended a democratic transition as the right outcome for Venezuela and is confident it will occur eventually. He also highlighted that the Nicolás Maduro regime is turning increasingly toward drug trafficking to finance itself, and that U.S. authorities have detected a sharp increase in the volume of drugs produced in Colombia that transit through Venezuela.
SOUTHCOM’s commander insisted that three of the U.S.’s principal adversaries — China, Cuba, and Russia — are propping up the authoritarian Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro. “The invasion of Venezuela happened because of the Cubans," Faller said, basing his assertion on intelligence that he didn’t disclose. "Maduro’s presidential guard is all Cuban [...] with the Russians right there alongside them — and the Chinese unfortunately are not being helpful, they’re there as well.”