WASHINGTON, D.C. April 2, 2020 (CMC) – The United States government is sending “additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft” to the Caribbean, in an effort to thwart the illegal drug trade.
The move, announced by US President, Donald Trump — joined by Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Mark Milley, at media briefing at the White House, on Wednesday — comes a week after the government charged Venezuela’s President, Nicolás Maduro, and other senior officials in the country, with “narco-terrorism”.
It accused them of flooding the United States with cocaine and using drugs, as a weapon, to undermine the health of Americans. Earlier, the Trump Administration announced US$15 million reward for information, leading to Maduro’s arrest.
“We must not let the drug cartels exploit the [coronavirus] pandemic to threaten American lives,” said President Trump.
“Today, the United States is launching enhanced, counter-narcotics operations in the Western Hemisphere, to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics,” he stated.
Trump added that the US was co-operating with 22 partner nations, enabling the US Southern Command to “increase surveillance, disruption and seizures of drug shipments, and provide additional support for eradication efforts, which are going on right now, at a record pace”.
“We’re deploying additional Navy destroyers, combat ships, aircraft and helicopters, Coast Guard cutters and Air Force surveillance aircraft, doubling our capabilities in the region,” he added.
The US deployment comes, two days after US Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, offered to lift crippling sanctions against Venezuela, if Maduro and opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, agreed to a power-sharing deal.
Under the US plan, Maduro would step aside and a transitional council would govern until fresh elections.
The Venezuelan government has, however, called the deployment a “diversion” from the current pandemic, spreading around the US, and the world at large.
Venezuela has experienced economic collapse – inflation was 800,000 percent, last year – and 4.8 million people have left the country.
Guaidó, who has accused Maduro of being unfit for office, has won the support of many in the country, as well as the United States and European Union.