Staff Sgt. John Eller conducts pre-flights check on his C-17 Globemaster III Jan. 3 prior to taking off from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii for a local area training mission. Sgt. Eller is a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

CUCUTA, Colombia — The Trump administration ratcheted up pressure Saturday on beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, dispatching U.S. military planes filled with humanitarian aid to this city on the Venezuelan border.

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Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks to soldiers while he attends a military exercise in Turiamo, Venezuela February 3, 2019. (Reuters/Miraflores Palace)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela's military urging them to abandon President Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.

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People attend a protest against Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro's government at Plaza Bolivar in Lima, Peru February 2, 2019. (Reuters/Guadalupe Pardo)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is prepared to protect U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities in Venezuela if needed, the U.S. admiral in charge of American forces in South America said on Thursday.

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26 January 2019, Venezuela, Caracas: Juan Guaido, who has appointed himself interim president, speaks to supporters in the Venezuelan capital. (Photo / Rafael Hernandez/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.)

Beloved readers: Your friend and humble Pentagon correspondent has been spending the last week trying to figure out why in the name of the Risen Mattis that Venezuela has suddenly become a national security hotspot.

As far as your dimwitted reporter can determine, neither the Taliban nor Al Qaeda nor ISIS have established a caliphate in the Bolivarian Republic. None of North Korea's nuclear weapons or ballistic missile facilities have been moved south of the border. And Caracas is the one place where Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani hasn't taken a selfie – yet.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump holds a news conference to mark six months since the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said military intervention in Venezuela was "an option" as Western nations boost pressure on socialist leader Nicolas Maduro to step down, while the troubled OPEC nation's ally Russia warned against "destructive meddling."

The United States, Canada and several Latin American countries have disavowed Maduro over his disputed re-election last year and recognized self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido as the country's rightful leader.

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National security adviser John Bolton holds his notes during a press briefing at the White House, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Washington. (Associated Press/Evan Vucci)

Is the Pentagon gearing up to send a contingent of U.S. service member to South American in response to the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela? Apparently, according to the world's dumbest OPSEC fail.

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