Venezuelan officials have announced the seizure of a large shipment of American weapons which they say were bound for anti-Maduro "terrorist groups". This comes following US national security advisor John Bolton's pledge to deliver "humanitarian aid" into the country, covertly if need be, despite embattled President Nicolas Maduro's vow to prevent such unauthorized shipments from entering.
A state official, Endes Palencia, the deputy minister of prevention and public safety, published photographs of the intercepted weapons shipment to social media, purportedly seized at a Venezuelan airport. According to his statement at least 19 rifles, 118 rifle chargers, 90 radio antennas, high-caliber ammunition, and six cellphones were shipped from the US to Arturo Michelena International Airport in Valencia.
Palencia stated authorities believe the illegal arms entered Venezuela on Sunday aboard an Airbus N881YV that departed Miami, Florida after which it was found in a storage yard within the airport grounds.
✔19 fusiles— GD Endes Palencia Ortiz (@PalenciaEndes) February 5, 2019
✔118 cargadores de fusil
✔4 porta fusil
✔3 miras para fusil
✔90 antenas de radio
✔6 teléfonos fueron hallados en el patio de almacenamiento del aeropuerto de Valencia los cuales ingresaron al país el #3Feb en el Air Bus N881YV procedente de Miami,EEUU #5Feb pic.twitter.com/5wnBFnxaFt
An investigation has been launched amidst tightened security at all ports of entry and customs checkpoints throughout the country, and as a military build-up ordered by Caracas continues along the the border with Colombia, considered a close ally of the United States and potential staging ground for US assets.
According to a quote in Turkish media, pro-Maduro officials pointed to "terrorist groups" and external financiers as likely responsible for the covert arms shipment.
They said they'll find those responsible "for financing terrorist groups that seek to undermine the peace of the people of Venezuela." Turkey is among countries that have remained vocally supportive of Maduro, along with Russia, China, and Iran, while some 19 European countries have backed US recognition of opposition leader Juan Guaido as "Interim President".
Caracas security forces have been on high alert for what Maduro and his officials have slammed as a US-led "coup attempt" and plotting related to external meddling, which they've further said neighboring Colombia has played a role in fostering.
The announcement of a US weapons seizure also comes following President Trump's State of the Union Address wherein he said, “We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom,” and further, “We condemn the brutality of Maduro regime.”
Trump administration officials like John Bolton have also of late actively encouraged Venezuelan military defections, something that so far has been limited to a tiny handful of officers, at least one of them a high ranking Air Force commander.
Late last week Bolton also stated: "Pursuant to the request of Interim President Juan Guaido, and in consultation with his officials the US will mobilize and transport humanitarian aid_medicine, surgical supplies, and nutritional supplements for the people of Venezuela. It's time for Maduro to get out of the way."
As we noted previously this raises the interesting scenario or possibility of the US initiating covert
weapons "humanitarian" shipments across the border, likely from ally Colombia. And it further raises the question: how long until Syria-style US covert weapons shipments make their way into the "humanitarian" supply line?
If the Maduro regime's latest claim to have uncovered a covert US weapons shipment is confirmed, it appears the "Syria option" is already in full gear, which means a greater likelihood of significant bloodshed to come.