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Argentina plotted potential US-backed military invasion of Venezuela in 2019

Argentina’s right-wing Mauricio Macri government made plans for a military invasion of Venezuela in 2019, in coordination with the United States and Colombia, using “humanitarian” intervention as an excuse.

Argentina military troops

With the support of the United States, Argentina’s right-wing government made plans for a potential invasion of Venezuela in 2019, according to leaked documents from the South American nation’s military.

The military operation was called the “Puma” exercise, and was overseen by Argentina’s conservative President Mauricio Macri, who was closely coordinating with the Donald Trump administration.

Macri’s Argentina had rejected Venezuela’s democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro and instead recognized Trump-appointed coup leader Juan Guaidó, after the little-known politician declared himself unelected “interim president” in January 2019.

Macri continued supporting the US-led coup attempt in Venezuela until he lost the October 2019 election and was replaced by current center-left President Alberto Fernández that December.

Argentine journalist Horacio Verbitsky, of the independent media outlet El Cohete a la Luna, received materials from internal military sources exposing the Venezuela invasion plans.

Between April and July of 2019, the Argentine military carried out the “Puma” exercise in seven sessions. The operation was overseen by General Juan Martín Paleo.

In addition to support from the United States, the Argentine invasion would have been coordinated with the military of Venezuela’s neighbor Colombia, which refuses to recognize President Maduro and backs coup leader Guaidó.

Colombia has a far-right government, closely linked to drug trafficking and death squads, and has been involved in numerous violent incursions into Venezuelan territory, including a botched invasion in May 2020 that coup-plotters say was backed by the Trump administration and the CIA.

The Argentine government was planning to used “humanitarian intervention” as an excuse for the invasion, claiming that Venezuela was blocking so-called “humanitarian aid” that the United States had been trying to force across the Colombian border.

Argentina’s military made plans for three potential paths to invade Venezuela, including by crossing the Colombian border. Verbitsky, the Argentine journalist, published a map of the Puma exercise scenarios.

Argentina military invasion Venezuela Puma 2

Plans by Argentina’s military for a potential invasion of Venezuela in 2019

On April 30, Guaidó’s US-backed team launched a violent coup attempt. It failed, because only a few dozen soldiers rose up against the Venezuelan government.

But the soldiers who did rebel managed to free far-right Venezuelan oligarch and coup-plotter Leopoldo López, who was under house arrest at the time.

López sought refuge in the Chilean and Spanish embassies,  and eventually moved to Madrid, where he continues to live with the protection of the government of Spain, the former colonizer of Venezuela.

With the backing of the US and Colombian governments, López later helped to organize a failed May 2020 invasion of Venezuela, called Operation Gideon.

On April 30, the day of Guaidó’s attempt to create a violent mutiny within the military, Argentine President Macri showed his full support for the operation, tweeting in all capital letters, “WE SUPPORT MORE THAN EVER DEMOCRACY IN VENEZUELA.”

Macri reaffirmed Argentina’s recognition of unelected coup leader Guaidó, and demonized the elected President Maduro as a so-called “dictator.” Macri praised the release of López and wrote, “We join the struggle of the Venezuelan people to retake their freedom.”

The Argentine journalist who exposed the Puma exercise, Verbitsky, noted that the former FBI deputy director under Trump, Andrew McCabe, revealed that the US president had wanted to control Venezuela’s oil.

According to McCabe, Trump said, “I don’t understand why we’re not looking at Venezuela. That’s the country we should be going to war with. They have all that oil and they’re right on our back door.”

The US government also backed other attempts to assassinate Maduro, including a failed operation using drones.

Argentina military invasion Venezuela Puma 1

An image from the Argentine military’s plans for an invasion of Venezuela in 2019

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