Venezuela’s Maduro Rebukes US SOUTHCOM Chief for Interfering in Internal Affairs

CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro firmly rejected recent statements by US Southern Command Chief John Kelly on Tuesday, which he dismissed as unacceptable interference in the South American nation’s internal affairs.

Speaking on CNN Español, the head of US military operations in Central and South America and the Caribbean described Venezuela as on the brink of “implosion” due to “inflation” and “drug trafficking” and expressed willingness to provide assistance in the event of a “humanitarian crisis”.

President Maduro hit back at the US general during his weekly television program, challenging the Pentagon’s double standards in expressing humanitarian “concern” for Venezuela while actively waging wars in other parts of the world.

“What right does he [Kelly] have to comment on Venezuela?”, Maduro exclaimed, advising the general to “dedicate the time you spend thinking about Venezuela to the people you have ordered to be killed in Libya, Syria, Pakistan.”

Maduro also took the opportunity to point out the policy discrepancies between the Pentagon and the Obama administration with the latter taking steps in recent months to normalize relations with Caracas, including a phone call by US Secretary of State John Kerry to his Venezuelan counterpart in September.

Addressing President Obama, he asked, “Who directs [US] policy towards Venezuela, you or General Kelly and Southern Command?”

Referring to the US general’s allegations of Venezuelan impunity towards cross-border drug trafficking, the Bolivarian leader lashed out at Washington’s “war on drugs”, which he termed a “great failure”.

“Who is the king of drug trafficking in the world, general Kelly? The DEA. Who is the worldwide promoter of drug culture? Who is the great failure in the fight against drug trafficking in the world? The United States.”

Both leaders’ comments are likely to stoke further tensions between the two countries, which have been once again on the rise following the detention of Venezuela’s chief ombudsman in Mexico on the orders of Interpol-USA in early October.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration enacted a series of sanctions against Bolivarian officials, culminating in an executive order branding Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat”, which in turn precipitated a global backlash.

In addition to the White House and the Pentagon, the US intelligence community has also publicly weighed in on Venezuela, with Defence Intelligence Agency Director Vincent Stuart warning in February that the upcoming December 6 parliamentary elections could be preceded by violence.

Lucas Koerner writes for Venezuela Analysis where this article was first published. Read other articles by Lucas.