Those who have bothered to read SOUTHCOM's comprehensive, multi-pronged plan to destabilize and ultimately topple Nicolas Maduro - a plan that, notably, ends with coalition troops on the ground - will recognize that two of the final steps involves enticing Venezuelan professionals to flee while encouraging military officials to give a coup d'etat one more try.
That appears to be what the US had in mind on Tuesday when it lifted sanctions on a Venezuelan general who broke ranks with the regime following a week of largely unsuccessful street demonstrations.
And in a speech in Washington on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to announce the removal of all sanctions on Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, a general who warned 25 supreme court magistrates that they would be "held accountable" unless they backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to WSJ.
During the speech, Pence is expected to denounce Venezuela's courts as a tool of corruption, and dangle sanctions relief in front of any other senior military or government officials willing to turn on Maduro.
In a speech later today Washington, Vice President Mike Pence will say Venezuela’s supreme court has "become a political tool for a regime that usurps democracy, indicts political prisoners, and promotes authoritarianism."
"It’s time for this body to return to its founding purpose," Mr. Pence will say, according to prepared remarks. "If the Supreme Court of Venezuela does not return to its constitutional mandate to uphold the rule of law, the United States will hold all 25 of its magistrates accountable for their actions."
Mr. Pence will highlight the removal, effective immediately, of all sanctions on Venezuelan Gen. Manuel Cristopher Figuera, the director the country’s intelligence service, Sebin, who is no longer supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Gen. Figuera issued a statement last week announcing his break with Mr. Maduro.
Pence's speech comes as support for opposition leader Juan Guaido's has been flagging, as many Venezuelans are exhausted with being used as "cannon fodder" against the military and pro-regime thugs. Pence is also expected to announce the deployment of a hospital ship to the region.
Despite President Trump's productive call with Putin late last week, Russia won't escape criticism, as Trump and Pence now appear to be engaged in a game of good-cop-bad-cop with the Russians. Pence is expect to denounce Moscow as Venezuela's biggest weapons supplier and accuse it of seeking a "foothold" in the southern hemisphere.
The U.S. has sanctioned more than 150 government officials and state-owned businesses loyal to Mr. Maduro.
"The United States will give sanctions relief to all those willing to step forward, stand up for the constitution, and support the rule of law," Mr. Pence will say.
Mr. Pence is also set to announce the deployment of USNS Comfort, a military hospital ship, to the Caribbean, Central America and South America to respond to the crisis in Venezuela.
If this isn't enough to undermine support for Maduro among the military, the most vital power bloc standing between Guaido and control of the levers of power, an invasion might be the only option left.