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Pompeo’s Ominous Venezuela Message

Mike Pompeo, CIA director (Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons)

The last remaining personnel at the U.S. embassy in Caracas are being withdrawn from the country:

The embassy should have been evacuated weeks ago, but the administration insisted on keeping some people there so that it didn’t look as if they were complying with Maduro’s order that American diplomats be expelled from the country. The administration has been willing to put U.S. diplomats in Venezuela at risk for more than a month while they try to overthrow the government. They had originally thought that regime change would be quick and easy, but as the standoff is starting to be measured in months rather than weeks we can see that it isn’t gong to be either of those things. Now Pompeo ominously describes the diplomats’ presence there as a “constraint” on U.S. policy. Taken together with the threatening rhetoric from Rubio, Bolton, and Pence, that naturally sets off warning bells that the U.S. is preparing to escalate its role in the crisis.

It is possible that Pompeo’s message is more of his usual “swaggering” bluster that is supposed to intimidate but just makes the Secretary of State look ridiculous. But it is also possible that this a prelude to some reckless administration action and possibly even the start of an attack on the Venezuelan government. Whatever they end up doing, the administration track record inspires no confidence in their judgment or competence. They are very likely going to do the wrong thing and they will also make a mess of it when they do. No matter what excuse the administration uses for further meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs, we cannot trust that this is the real reason for what they are doing.

We have already seen how eagerly administration officials spread false information about events in Venezuela:

Vice President Mike Pence wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced” as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

When confronted with the evidence, U.S. officials’ response has been to shrug and hold Maduro responsible anyway. Any claims that the administration makes about Venezuela have to be regarded with intense suspicion. The same officials that have repeatedly lied about Yemen, Iran, and other issues to justify outrageous and indefensible policies will have no problem lying to advance their regime change policy in Venezuela.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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