Head of Colombian military meets with US officials at Southcom

Officials discuss crisis in Venezuela, sending aid to country's citizens in need

By Trent Kelly - Reporter, Saira Anwer - Reporter

DORAL, Fla. - The head of the Colombian military received a warm welcome Wednesday outside the U.S. Southern Command in Doral as he arrived to meet with U.S. officials.

Officials from Colombia and the U.S. are expected to discuss a number of issues, most notably the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, where embattled President Nicolas Maduro continues to reject any offers of U.S. aid. 

While speaking before their meeting, Colombian Army Gen. Luis Navarro Jimenez reaffirmed his country's support for the U.S.-led aid efforts, but stopped short of calling for military intervention.

Craig Faller, Southcom commander and Navy admiral, took his message one step further, calling out Maduro by name and addressing his Army. 

"This message is for the Venezuelan military," Faller said. "You will ultimately be held accountable for your actions. Do the right thing. Save the people and your country."

When asked if the U.S. stands ready to send troops to the country, Faller took nothing off the table.

"The president has been quite clear," Faller said. "Our job as military professionals is to be ready. The world is united, and we are working closely with our friends, the Colombians and others."

Palettes of humanitarian aid are currently on a U.S. military aircraft on its way to Cucuta, a Colombian city bordering Venezuela. 

Cucuta is the same city where Maduro ordered U.S. aid shipments to be blocked from crossing the bridge into Venezuela.

Southcom is part of the shipment of the aid but not the distribution.

It's unclear right now how USAID, which plans the distribution, will get around the border bridge that Maduro ordered to be blocked. 

"Interim President (Juan) Guaidó and Venezuela's National Assembly have rightly stressed the need for immediate international assistance in response to the increasingly urgent humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people," a USAID spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday. "The U.S. Government is coordinating with President Guaidó and his team of experts, as well as governments in the region and our humanitarian partners on the logistics of deploying aid, in order to mobilize a response efficiently and safely.  

"This aid must be allowed to enter Venezuela to reach those in need. We urge Maduro to
let this aid reach the Venezuelan people."

Brazilian officials have also said they are teaming up with the U.S. to send aid through the Brazilian border with Venezuela, specifying that the aid will get into Venezuela through trucks driven by Venezuelan citizens organized by Guaido.

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