The agency is working towards changing the elected government of Venezuela and is cooperating with two countries in the region to do so, suggests the head of the CIA.
CIA director Mike Pompeo said he’s hopeful of a transition in Venezuela and his organisation is doing its best to understand the dynamics there.
“I was just down in Mexico City and in Bogota a week before last talking about this very issue, trying to help them understand the things they might do so that they can get a better outcome for their part of the world and our part of the world,” he further added.
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Mr Pompeo delivered these comments during a Q&A session at a security forum organised by the Aspen Institute think tank.
President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela denounced the CIA director’s remarks and even criticised the governments of Columbia and Mexico.
“The director of the CIA has said ‘The CIA and the US government work in direct collaboration with the Mexican government and the Colombian government to overthrow the constitutional government in Venezuela and to intervene in our beloved Venezuela,’” Mr Maduro said in a televised interview.
“I demand the government of Mexico and the government of Colombia to properly clarify the declarations from the CIA and I will make political and diplomatic decisions accordingly before this audacity,” he added.
The US has an infamous history of interfering with democratically elected governments in Latin America, from Chile to Nicaragua and Argentina to Haiti.
In Venezuela, the US is funding opposition groups to weaken the incumbent government of Maduro through organisations like the National Endowment for democracy.
“Venezuela is descending into a deepening crisis that could end in violence,” said US officials while talking to reporters.
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“For the past 15 years, it had been US policy to seek a change of governments in Caracus,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.
“They have been trying to get rid of this government for a long time and they feel they are getting closer than ever,” he told The Independent.
The opposition has called for President Maduro, who has been accused of mounting authoritarianism,to step down amid the widespread protests against a backdrop of civil unrest, rising inflation and food shortages.
According to Reuters, Mr Maduro, 54, insists the only way to empower people and bring peace is through elections which are due to be held in 2018.
“I’m interested in your open assessment on American interests in or threats from Venezuela and which of course has Russian, Iranian, etcetera, interests, and for the region,” said Vanessa Neumann, a dual US and Venezuelan national while posing a question for the CIA director.
“I am always careful when we talk about South and Central America and the CIA, there’s a lot of stories. So I want to be careful with what I say but suffice to say, we are very hopeful that there can be a transition in Venezuela and we the CIA is doing its best to understand the dynamic there, so that we can communicate to our State Department and to others,” he responded.
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Neither the CIA nor the governments of Mexico and Columbia have commented on Mr Maduro’s remarks.
“The United States joins nations across the hemisphere and calls upon the government of Venezuela to live up to its commitments to hold free, fair, and credible elections immediately, provide for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, and tend to the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people,” said a State Department spokesperson.
“We call for the government of Venezuela to suspend the National Constituent Assembly. The Venezuelan people spoke in overwhelming numbers in the opposition-organised referendum on July 16. Their voices must not be ignored. We are prepared to take strong and swift economic actions if the Government of Venezuela election moves forward on July 30 with a Constituent Assembly,” the statement added.
This article originally appeared on The Independent
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