The White House has prepared an intelligence blueprint for regime change in Venezuela, according to a bombshell Monday evening report in Axios.
According to the report, which follows a New York Times story from early this month that confirmed the administration had previously established a "clandestine channel" involving covert meetings with Venezuelan military coup plotters targeting President Nicolás Maduro, the White House has prepared for multiple scenarios involving dramatic military escalation that could trigger US invasion of the small Latin American country.
The White House National Security Council drafted a step-by-step “program of escalation” for Venezuela after President Trump took office, including the grounds for military intervention, a former senior official said today.
The plans were revealed by Fernando Cutz, who was a top adviser to former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and the top National Security Council official on South America, while speaking at an event at the Wilson Center.
Cutz said he was part of a working group to lay out potential scenarios of escalating crises in Venezuela and corresponding options detailing the US reaction to events.
Among the scenarios Cutz outlined included the potential for a Venezuelan military assault and takeover of the US embassy in Caracas, or a massacre of 1,000 civilians which could trigger an America military response on humanitarian grounds.
However Cutz voiced skepticism over the success of many of the plans, questioning what would come the day after if a coup d'état or even complete regime collapse were to occur.
According to Axios,
He said other steps the White House “had ready” included a full oil embargo, which would severely restrict Venezuela's cashflow but presented the question: “If we destroy Venezuela, and we make the situation worse for the people of Venezuela, what comes next?” They didn't have a satisfactory answer.
Concerning prior reports that Trump White House officials had previously met with Venezuelan military coup plotters to discuss potential support for fomenting regime change:
Cutz was asked about the meetings and said the White House “never debated supporting a coup” or offered support or tacit approval to coup plotters, but was “open to listening” to “any significant players.” He also said he had “no idea” why Trump had mentioned military action, adding that it “wasn’t in the script.”
Several secret meetings between the Trump administration and Venezuelan military officers reportedly took place to talk about potential coup plans, but according to administration sources "the coup plans stalled". The meetings were said to have been spearheaded by someone simply described as a "career diplomat".
According to the New York Times reporting in early September, "American officials did not provide material support, and the plans unraveled after a recent crackdown that led to the arrest of dozens of the plotters." The secret talks were reportedly dropped and the mutinous officers on their own.
Meanwhile Cutz suggested that if things got bad enough in Venezuela, citing a refugee crisis that could possibly swell to 5 million displaced, or a coup scenario or mass uprising, Trump could take steps to intervene: "the least bloody of those is probably going to be a foreign military intervention,” he said, echoing the usual pro-regime change Washington calculus.