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Report: Trump administration met with military rebels to discuss overthrow of Venezuelan president

Cadets are shown marching during a military parade for the 207th anniversary of the Venezuelan Independence in Caracas on July 5, 2018. - President Nicolas Maduro urged his armed forces Wednesday to be on guard following news reports in the United States that a year ago President Donald Trump raised the possibility of invading Venezuela. (FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

The Trump administration reportedly held “secret meetings” with rebel military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss plans to overthrow Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, according to a report by the New York Times.

The move was categorized by the news outlet as a gamble for Washington because of its history of covert intervention across Latin America.

The report quotes Mari Carmen Aponte, a top Latin American diplomat who served in the final months of the Obama administration.

“This is going to land like a bomb” in the region, Aponte said.

Many in the region resent the U.S.’s previous backing of “rebellions, coups and plots in countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Brazil and Chile, and for turning a blind eye to the abuses military regimes committed during the Cold War,” according to the report.

Is it true?

The White House did not elaborate on the talks, but issued a statement that it was important to engage in “dialogue with all Venezuelans who demonstrate a desire for democracy” in order to “bring positive change to a country that has suffered so much under Maduro,” according to the report.

One of the Venezuelan military commanders involved in the secret talks is on the U.S. government’s sanctions list of corrupt officials in Venezuela, the report stated.

Although Washington has long regarded the Venezuelan military as corrupt and heavily involved in narcotics trafficking, there is merit in establishing a back channel with some of them, Roberta Jacobson, a former ambassador to Mexico, told the media outlet. Jacobson preceded Aponte as the top State Department official for Latin America policy.

Jacobson said:

Given the broader breakdown in institutions in Venezuela, there was a feeling that — while they were not necessarily the answer — any kind of democratic resolution would have had to have the military on board. The idea of hearing from actors in those places, no matter how unsavory they may be, is integral to diplomacy.

What is the history?

On the other hand, there is concern that holding discussions with coup plotters could spur suspicion, the report stated. It goes on to cite a list of failed U.S. "interventions."

Among them: “the Central Intelligence Agency’s failed Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Fidel Castro as leader of Cuba in 1961; the American-supported coup in Chile in 1973, which led to the long military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; and the Reagan administration’s covert support of right-wing rebels known as the contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s.”

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