Cucuta, Colombia — People clung to the outside rails of the Simon Bolivar Bridge to watch as President Ivan Duque and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walked the same path taken by almost 4,000 Venezuelan refugees every day. The influx of refugees “has created a great social and economic shock,” Duque said, standing next to Pompeo in the muggy Colombian heat. “But as I always said, we are here to help the Venezuelan people who are running away from a brutal dictatorship.”
One and a half million Venezuelans have fled across the border into Colombia in the last two years. Venezuelan refugees demonstrated as Pompeo visited with Duque over the weekend, chanting “libertad!” and anti-Maduro slogans. When asked what they wanted from the United States, the protesters yelled back: “intervention!”
Prospect of military interventionThe Trump administration has consistently said that all options are on the table in its efforts to get Maduro to step down. He has been declared an illegitimate leader by the U.S. and dozens of other nations, which have thrown their support behind interim President Juan Guaido. But the White House has not given any public indication that a military intervention might be in the works, emphasizing instead diplomacy, sanctions and visa restrictions against the Maduro regime. Why Putin has sent Russian troops into VenezuelaPompeo has also called out the Cuban and Russian governments for supporting Maduro, including by sending troops and military assets into Venezuela. “Cubans must understand too that there will be cost associated with continued support of Nicolas Maduro,” Pompeo told journalists traveling with him. “And we’re going to have that same conversation with the Russians as well.”Cuba aside, there has rarely been as much political consensus in the region as there is over the Venezuela crisis. Leaders in every country Pompeo visited made statements showing them consistently aligned with U.S. policy. But that doesn’t make the decision to take military action any easier.Even after proclaiming that, “with dictators, with tyrants, there is no dialogue. You fight them,” Paraguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Castiglioni didn’t appear ready to send in the troops. “We are convinced that all the diplomatic efforts that are being made to isolate this regime will have results in a short time,” he said.