‘5,000 troops to Colombia’
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‘5,000 troops to Colombia’

During a briefing at the White House to announce sanctions against Venezuela’s oil industry, Bolton held the notepad against his jacket with its pages facing outward. Scrawled in tight print at the top of the cover page were two items: “Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks,” an apparent reference to ongoing peace negotiations with the Taliban, and “5,000 troops to Colombia.” Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the Defense Department hadn’t received any orders to this effect. Asked about the handwritten notes that were visible to cameras, the White House pointed to statements made by Bolton and his boss, President Trump, in recent days that “all options are on the table” regarding Venezuela. The plan raised more questions about the potential for military action in Venezuela. If enacted, the troop movement would mark a major escalation of U.S. involvement in South America, though it is unclear what exactly the service members’ roles would be. The hospital ship USNS Comfort deployed to the Colombian port of Riohacha to treat Venezuelan migrants in the fall, but it has since returned home. The U.S. military has collaborated with its Colombian counterpart for years, providing training on everything from counterinsurgency to securing aircraft crash scenes. Tensions between the United States and Venezuela — a constant for more than a dozen years — have surged to crisis levels in the past week, after the United States recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s president. Guaidó, the head of the country’s National Assembly, had invoked the constitution to declare himself Venezuela’s president last week. The diplomatic crisis has continued as the United States defied an order by President Nicolás Maduro to evacuate its embassy staff from the country.

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