WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Democrat MP said Wednesday that Congress would oppose US military intervention in Venezuela and question the credibility of US President Donald Trump, Elliott Abrams, for his arrest of American covert actions.
Eliot Engel, the Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Office, expressed his concern over Trump's indications that military action was an option in Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro is under international pressure to step aside and the country's economy is in chaos.
"I'm worried about the saber noise of the president. His hints that US military intervention remains an option. I want to make clear to our witnesses and to all other observers: US military intervention is not an option, "Engel said to the OPEC nation.
The head of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, called on a constitutional provision three weeks ago to assume the presidency, arguing that Maduro's re-election last year was a farce.
Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as the legitimate head of state of Venezuela, but Maduro's socialist government retains the support of Russia and China, as well as the control of state institutions, including the military.
Under US law, Congress – not the President – must approve a foreign military action. At the hearing, Democrats in the Abrams committee urged his views on military intervention, but questions about his credibility provoked the most intense exchange.
Abrams, a Deputy Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan, was convicted in 1991 for holding back information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, in which US officials secretly facilitated the sale of weapons to Iran and the money for the rebels used the leftist government of Nicaragua. He was named President George H.W. Rifle.
Representative Joaquin Castro asked Abrams if he was aware of a transfer of weapons or defense by the US government to groups in Venezuela who turned against Maduro. Abrams answered that he was not.
"I ask this question because you have such actions," Castro said. "Can we trust your testimony today?"
Representative Ilhan Omar discussed US support for anti-communists in Central America during the Cold War and cited Abram's initial rejection of reports of the El Mozote massacre in El Salvador in 1981 as left-wing propaganda.
"Would you support an armed faction in Venezuela involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, if you believe that they serve US interests, as you did in Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua?", Asked Omar.
"I will not answer that question," Abrams answered. He called her a personal attack questioningly.
Abrams also drew intermittent outbreaks of protesters at the hearing. "You are a convicted criminal!" Exclaimed a man before he was led out.
PRINT ON MADURO
Abrams said that Washington is putting pressure on Maduro and his inner circle in "different ways."
"But we will also provide departures for those who do what is right for the Venezuelan people," he said.
Engel warned of the potential impact of the US sanctions on state oil company PDVSA on the Venezuelan people. The United States imposed sanctions in January to restrict Maduro's access to oil revenues.
"I appreciate the need to push Maduro," Engel said. "But the White House must think through the potential impact of these sanctions on the Venezuelan people if Maduro does not leave office in the next few weeks."
Witnesses to the panel described a devastating humanitarian situation. Steve Olive of the US Agency for International Development said hospitals were facing drastically reduced inventories, there were concerns about the power grid and rising reports of malnutrition.
"The situation is getting worse every day," he said.
Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Rosalba O & # 39; Brien