Trump officials met Venezuela military coup plotters: NYT

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NEW YORK, Sept 8 (APP)::Trump administration officials held three meetings with rebel Venezuelan military officers over the past year to discuss their plans for a possible coup to replace President Nicolas Maduro, a socialist leader, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing unidentified U.S. officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.
In a front-page report, the Times said that a covert channel was set up between Trump administration officials and coup plotters.
Venezuelan military officials were reportedly rebuffed by the Obama administration, but they were more successful in reaching out to the Trump White House after the president said last year that the U.S. had a “military option” for Venezuela.
“It was the commander-in-chief saying this now,” the former Venezuelan commander told The New York Times. “I’m not going to doubt it when this was the messenger.”
As a humanitarian crisis involving massive food and medicine shortages continued to plague Venezuela, U.S. officials decided the time was ripe to try to replace the authoritarian President Maduro, according to the report.
The U.S. was asked to supply encrypted radios to a few hundred service members who had reportedly soured on Maduro, but decided to not send material support while dozens of the coup plotters were later detained.
The White House, according to the report, declined the Times’ request to answer in detail about the talks, saying in a statement that it was important to engage in “dialogue with all Venezuelans who demonstrate a desire for democracy” in order to “bring positive change to a country that has suffered so much under Maduro.”
Maduro has retained a level of support by claiming that the U.S. is trying to depose him and meddle in Venezuela’s affairs.
While some scoffed at the assertion, the developments could provide the embattled president with ammunition as he struggles to maintain his base of support, the Times reported.
The newspaper noted that the reported discussions with coup plotters could raise alarms in the region given the United States’ list of interventions there, including a controversial U.S.-backed coup in Chile in 1973 and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Cuba’s Fidel Castro in 1961.