Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued an incredible statement to Fox News on Friday, vowing to take "series of actions" in "the coming days" against Nicolas Maduro's government in Venezuela.
The threat was couched in terms of being in the "best interest" of Venezuelans, and though Pompeo didn't specify details, he said the US is “determined to ensure that the Venezuelan people get their say.”
“I think you’ll see in the coming days a series of actions that continue to increase the pressure level against the Venezuelan leadership folks who are working directly against the best interest of the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo told Fox.
It is the broad nature of the threat that makes it unusual, but particularly the timing and context, as it follows the early August failed assassination attempt on Maduro which interrupted a live television broadcast from Caracas. Maduro had been speaking at a military parade when two explosive-laden drones said to be flying in the direct of the podium exploded in the area.
In the aftermath the Venezuelan socialist leader blamed the United States and allied right-wing groups for being behind the attack, in a speech describing, “They tried to assassinate me today," while blaming the attack on right-wing factions specifically connected to Columbia and Florida.
He claimed at the time that "several of those intellectually responsible and the financiers of this attack live in the United States, in the state of Florida," and called on U.S. President Donald Trump to "fight these terrorist groups".
The live broadcast on state television showing the assassination attempt:
ÚLTIMA HORA | VIDEO - Situación irregular en la avenida Bolívar de Caracas durante Cadena Nacional de Maduro en acto con la GNB.— AlbertoNews (@AlbertoRodNews) August 4, 2018
VTV cortó de emergencia la transmisión oficial. pic.twitter.com/SMZeFZlRv4
Washington has steadily increased sanctions on Venezuela over the past number of months after Trump administration officials have accused the Maduro government of stamping out democracy and jailing opposition leaders. Maduro for his part has blamed the country's ills, specifically the collapsed economy and now worthless currency, on Washington plotting and subversion.
Under Maduro the country is now beset by annual inflation running at 200,000 percent, resulting in basic stables and medicines disappearing from store shelves, resulting in a significant uptick in emigration for people with means.
But lately a series of statement and stories in the media have served to fuel and confirm his suspicions that the US is planning covert regime change. Certainly Pompeo's latest comments will add to Maduro's fears that more major "plotting" is afoot.
Early this month the The New York Times revealed in an explosive story that the Trump White House held covert meetings with Venezuelan military coup plotters seeking to topple the Maduro government. The US had set up a "clandestine channel" which involved contacts with what were described as "rebellious officers" bent on bringing about regime change with the help of Washington.
The NYT report detailed several secret meetings between the Trump administration and military officers to talk about potential coup plans, but according to Times sources "the coup plans stalled". The meetings were spearheaded by someone simply described as a "career diplomat".
Pompeo's Friday warning, which likely hints at more economic warfare and sanctions to be leveled against Venezuela, comes ahead of the annual U.N. General Assembly in New York next week. Maduro has not attended UN meetings since 2015 out of fear that he could be assassinated.