Trump administration to double military capabilities in Caribbean sea to combat drug cartels taking advantage of the Coronavirus crisis and to deny funds to the Maduro regime in Venezuela

The Trump administration announced late Wednesday that the US will be expanding its military presence in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean sea in an attempt to combat drug cartels striving to take advantage of the Coronavirus crisis and to deny funds going to the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela. The operation, which includes the partnership of 22 other countries and is headed by the US Southern Command based in Doral, Florida, will include “deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft, helicopters, Coast Guards cutters, and Air Force surveillance aircraft,” more than “doubling the capability of the US military” in the region, according to President Trump in his daily White House news briefing Wednesday. Trump also noted on the necessity of the action, stating that  “We must not let the drug cartels exploit the pandemic to threaten American lives.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper, speaking of the Venezuelan pressure campaign, said “Corrupt actors, like the illegitimate Maduro regime in Venezuela, rely on the profits derived from the sale of narcotics to maintain their oppressive hold on power.” ~

The counternarcotics operation aimed towards Venezuela follows the indictment last week of Nicolás Maduro and more than a dozen of the regime’s current and former officials on charges of narco-terrrorism, conspiracy, drug trafficking, and corruption. Federal prosecutors also accused Maduro and his regime of trafficking tons of cocaine into the US each year, representing a large fraction of the 280 metric tons of drugs heading to the US last year seized by Southcom (Trib Live). Maduro dismissed these criminal charges and accusations, however, as false and racist. Furthermore, Venezuela’s government “energetically rejected” the American-led operation, calling it “an effort to distract from incompetent U.S. handling of the coronavirus outbreak,” according to the US News & World Report. The US and dozens of other countries have regarded Maduro’s 2018 re-election as a sham, and have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president. The Venezuelan military, and the countries of Russia, China, and Cuba have backed Maduro’s rule. ~

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