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US met with Venezuela officers plotting coup

US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, multiple US officials confirmed to CNN. CNN's Jeremy Diamond has more.

Posted: Sep 10, 2018 9:16 AM
Updated: Sep 10, 2018 9:36 AM

US officials met secretly with Venezuelan military officers who were plotting a coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, both a current and a former US official confirmed to CNN.

American officials met with the renegade Venezuelan military officers several times over the last year after the Venezuelan officers made contact, but Washington ultimately decided against supporting the coup, the two sources said.

The US did not provide the Venezuelan officers with any support and the plans for the coup ultimately fell apart, the sources said.

The Trump administration's discussions with the Venezuelan military officers about a potential coup were first reported Saturday morning by the New York Times. The current and former US officials confirmed to CNN that report is accurate.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. CNN has also reached out to the press office of Venezuela's Ministry of Defense, who said they will not comment until they are given instructions to do so.

The White House told the Times 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."

President Donald Trump has previously discussed the possibility of a military option in Venezuela.

"We have many options for Venezuela. And by the way, I am not going to rule out a military option," Trump said last August.

Asked about the possibility of a military intervention in response to the mounting crisis in the country, the President said that is something the US "certainly could pursue."

Taking military action against Venezuela would be a dramatic escalation of the US's so-far solely diplomatic and sanctions-focused response to the political and economic crisis roiling the South American country.

In August 2017, Trump asked several advisers about the possibility of invading Venezuela, CNN reported in July.

Details about the meetings

The Times' report included details from the secret meetings, citing 11 current and former US officials and a former Venezuelan military commander sanctioned by the US government who was involved in the secret meetings.

The Venezuelan military commander is one of many on the US government's list of sanctioned Venezuelan officials accused of serious crimes, according to the Times.

The former commander told the Times at least three factions within the Venezuelan military were plotting against the Maduro government.

The Times reported that one such rebel group made initial contact with the US government through an American embassy in a European city's capital.

White House officials back in Washington were at first worried that the meeting request was a setup in order to record a US official appearing to conspire against Maduro's government, the Times reported.

But US officials finally felt the meetings were worth the risk as they watched the crisis in the Latin American country worsen, the Times reported.

Trump's administration sent a career diplomat with instructions to attend the meetings "purely on listening mode" and not to negotiate, a senior administration official told the Times.

From their first meeting held abroad in fall 2017, the diplomat made the assessment that the Venezuelan rebels did not appear to have a detailed plan, but instead were hoping the American government would provide guidance or ideas, the Times reported.

The former Venezuelan commander told the Times that the officers never sought US military intervention: "I never agreed, nor did they propose, to do a joint operation," he told the newspaper.

During a second meeting last year, the officers requested encrypted radios for secure communication, the Times reported.

But senior officials declined the request, according to the newspaper.

A third meeting was arranged early this year, however discussions resulted in zero promises of material support or clear signs that Washington supported the rebels' plans, the Times reported.

Attempts to stage a coup by Venezuelan rebels

According to the Venezuelan commander, the rebels attempted several times to stage a coup.

They were considering striking last July, when the election was held to replace the National Assembly with a new pro-Maduro legislative body called the National Constituent Assembly, the Times reported.

The plans to stage a coup moved to March, then later the May 20 election. However, both attempts were thwarted after the plans leaked, according to the Times.

The Times reported that it's unclear the amount of detail the Venezuelans shared with the Americans, yet there is indication that Maduro was aware of the secret meetings.

Once the richest country in Latin America, Venezuela has plummeted into an economic and humanitarian crisis where its people are living with food shortages, overcrowded hospitals, inflation and political turmoil. The chaos and ongoing crisis have triggered a mass exodus of Venezuelans seeking refuge in neighboring countries, ratcheting up tensions in the region.

Last month, Maduro survived an apparent assassination attempt after several drones armed with explosives flew toward him during a speech at a military parade.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
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Monroe4120133
Union411276
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Lincoln3972110
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Leflore3500125
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Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
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Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
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Leake268673
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Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
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Limestone10075151
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Cullman9773194
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DeKalb8866188
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Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
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Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
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