by WorldTribune Staff, March 28, 2019
U.S. President Donald Trump has called on Russia to remove its troops from Venezuela. A Russian Il-62 passenger jet and an An-124 military cargo plane carrying troops and equipment arrived at the international airport outside Caracas on March 23.
“Russia has to get out,” Trump told reporters at the White House on March 27.
Asked how he would make Russian forces leave, Trump said: “We’ll see. All options are open.”
The U.S. government indicated it believes the Russian troops include special forces and cybersecurity experts.
Vice President Mike Pence called the arrival of the Russian planes in Caracas an “unwelcome provocation.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a televised press briefing on March 28 that Moscow “is not threatening anyone,” and its increased military presence in Venezuela does not change the balance of forces there. The military personnel were sent as part of Russia’s agreements to supply weapons to Venezuela and will stay “as long as needed,” she said.
Related: Report: Russian planes carrying troops arrive in Venezuela, March 25, 2019
Venezuela’s military attache in Moscow, Jose Rafael Torrealba Perez, said on March 28 that the Russians will not take part in military operations. He also said that Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez is expected to visit Moscow next month as part of the cooperation between the two countries.
Russia has made billions off investments in Venezuela and continues to back the dictator, Nicolas Maduro, whose policies steered the nation into an economic and humanitarian disaster.
The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.
Trump on March 27 met with Guaido’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, at the White House.
“They are trying to break our morale. They want to submerge us in eternal darkness. But let me tell you that there is light, and the light is here,” said Rosales, a 26-year-old journalist and opposition activist.
“I fear for my husband’s life,” said Rosales, who was accompanied by the wife and sister of Roberto Marrero, Guaido’s chief of staff, who was arrested and detained last week.
Pence praised Rosales for being “courageous.” “Our message very simply is: We’re with you,” Pence said.