President Trump announced Wednesday that Navy ships are being moved toward Venezuela as his administration beefs up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean following a US drug indictment against Nicolás Maduro, the AP reports. The president's announcement was a break from the daily White House press briefing to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, which has left much of the country in lock-down and which the government warns could cause 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. "The Venezuelan people continue to suffer tremendously due to Maduro and his criminal control over the country, and drug traffickers are seizing on this lawlessness," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said after the president's announcement.
The mission involves sending additional Navy warships, surveillance aircraft, and special forces teams to nearly double the US counter-narcotics capacity in the Western Hemisphere, with forces operating both in the Caribbean and eastern Pacific. Esper said the mission would be supported by 22 partner nations. The enhanced mission has been months in the making but has taken on greater urgency following last week's indictment of Maduro, Venezuela's embattled socialist leader, and members of his inner circle and military. They are accused of leading a narcoterrorist conspiracy responsible for smuggling up to 250 metric tons of cocaine a year into the US, about half of it by sea.
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