CIA director warns of possibility of Venezuela weapons transfers

Senate hearing on global security threats includes discussion on Venezuela

WASHINGTON – Under questioning from Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that there is a risk that large caches of weapons in Venezuela could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations in the black market. 

Pompeo was testifying with Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, DNI Director Dan Coats, Naional Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. General  Vincent Steward during a Senate hearing on global security threats.

Pompeo said he was concerned about Maduro's "colectivos," armed pro-government militiamen who have been harassing protesters who were trying to march to the Supreme Court. 

"It is a real threat, as we have all seen the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate Maduro gets more desperate by the hour," Pompeo said. "The risk of these 'colectivos' acting in a way that is not under his control increases as time goes by as well." 

Pompeo added that "we have not seen any of those major arms transfers."

Venezuela's National Guard appeared to have a limitless supply of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets, as protesters  demanding elections continued to take over streets of Caracas. Witnesses report some officers have intervened when militia members have fired their weapons. 

There are at least 47 deaths related to the protests in April and May. At least  1,300 people have been detained in the unrest. Some 250 civilians have been presented before military tribunals.

Demonstrators contend Maduro's socialist government has become an authoritarian regime responsible for triple-digit inflation, soaring crime and widespread food and medical supply shortages. Maduro vowed to hold a special assembly to rewrite the constitution. 

Maduro continues to dismiss the opposition movement as a violent, far-right effort funded by exiled Venezuelans in Miami who want to remove him from power. Opposition leaders blame the "colectivos" for several injuries and deaths in Caracas. 

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