Trump pressure Maduro and drug cartels with military option
“U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide
additional support for eradication efforts.”
U.S. accuses cartels of trying to capitalize on virus crisis
Trump aide says operation would help ‘choke off' Maduro regime
By Josh Wingroves/Bloomberg
Petroleumworld 04 02 2020
President Donald Trump said he's deploying more Navy vessels and Air Force planes in the Caribbean to ramp up pressure on drug cartels in a move that is also meant to put added strain on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's regime.
Trump said cartels from Latin America and the Caribbean are seeking to capitalize on the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. and that efforts need to be redoubled to stop them.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday evening. “U.S. Southern Command will increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments and provide additional support for eradication efforts.”
Citing statistics that illegal narcotics kill 70,000 Americans annually, senior military officials said the U.S. is “at war” with drug cartels. But the move also appeared targeted at Maduro, who the U.S. last month indicted on charges including drug trafficking while offering a $15 million reward for his arrest and conviction.
Read More: Venezuela's U.S. plan: Maduro and Guaido to step aside, a “Council ” to call elections
The Trump administration has long been trying to oust Maduro.
National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien said the efforts would help “choke off” funding the Maduro government depends on after economic mismanagement, economic sanctions and crumbling oil prices hobbled a country that has one of the world's biggest reserves of crude.
Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela's information minister, said on state television that the anti-drug operation was an attempt to divert attention from the American government's “erratic handling of the coronavirus crisis.”
Rodriguez added, however, that “if it is a serious effort to stop drug trafficking, we are willing to collaborate.”
— With assistance by Alex Vasquez