"Donald Trump is the direct chief of this invasion."
--Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro
Of all the surprises in the Donald Trump administration--including that there is such thing as a Donald Trump administration--nothing would surprise more than if Donald Trump was the direct chief of this invasion.
Donald Trump likes a big room. He doesn't do understated. The current president of the United States--and, it should be noted, commander-and-chief of its armed forces--goes big, or not at all. Everything with him is superlative adjectives and adverbs, hyperbole, a lot of "verys" and "best evers."
If he were to order an invasion of Venezuela, they'd know it. Like Bill Buckley snapped at Gore Vidal: And you'll stay plastered!
Thankfully, he has not. (The United States has enough on its hands, thank you.)
In what can only be described as bizarre beyond words--almost--the Venezuelans captured a couple of Americans along their coast. That's where any agreement ends.
President Maduro says two Americans and 11 other "terrorists" were picked up during an attempted plot to overthrow his government. Many others were killed. The unlucky 13 were being held by Mr. Maduro's government as of this writing. Apparently one of the Americans was videotaped giving a confession. Or maybe the confession was taken instead of given. That's easily enough done by these governments.
"I was helping Venezuelans take back control of their country," one man, identified as 34-year-old American vet Luke Denman, said. The other American is named--according to a U.S. Army spokesman--Airan Berry, and both carried ID cards for a security contracting company out of, you guessed it, Florida.
The Washington Post reports the two Americans, and others, were in a boat just off Venezuela's Caribbean coast Sunday "hoping for extraction" before Maduro's military picked them up. Which sounds like their boat was adrift. Dispatches say they were hoping to land ashore, inspire an uprising among fifth-columnists just waiting to be inspired. In all, about 60 men were going up against Venezuela's army of 130,000 active duty. And another 220,000 paramilitary.
Venezuela says it had some folks planted in the enemy ranks, and even knew what the invasion forces were drinking the night before. A second "wave" of invaders was rolled up by some ticked-off fishermen.
The private Florida contractor tweeted about the raid. While its people were conducting it.
The opinion sections are calling this a kind of Bay of Pigs. But that's not quite accurate, is it? The Bay of Pigs had professionals among the invading ranks.
What this reminds us of, more than anything, is Fidel Castro's first attempt to invade Cuba in December 1956. Which was more Keystone Cops than Rambo.
As an invasion, Fidel's first storming of Cuba was more a shipwreck. Reports were that he invaded his home country with a yacht called the Granma. And we're not kidding. (Granma would become the name of Cuba's state newspaper, many years later, in honor of the boat.)
More than 80 men were packed onto the boat, which was built to sleep eight. They took off in a storm. The weather delayed the "landing" and the fifth-columnists that were waiting on Fidel & Co. rose up too soon, and were put down easily by General Batista's hired hands. Finally, Granma ran aground and the men had to slosh their way to dry land. Where most were picked up. (Spotter planes overhead proved that Batista also had his spies in the enemy's ranks.)
The difference between Cuba in 1956 and Venezuela in 2020: Fidel got away, and eventually found enough support to wage a war against the Cuban government. Conditions may be awful in Venezuela just now, but these modern invaders aren't leading a thing.
For years, Nicolas Maduro has been warning of an invasion by American forces from El Norte. Now he has what he will call proof. Doubtless, he will use this episode in many briefings/speeches/harangues to come.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., last week, the president of the United States seemed to have been caught by surprise: "Whatever it is, we'll let you know," President Trump said. "But it has nothing to do with our government."
Americans--well, citizens of the United States in this part of the Americas--are probably going to be inclined to believe him, no matter their politics. It doesn't seem like this president would be a part of a 60-man invasion force.
Bizarre beyond words. Almost.
Editorial on 05/10/2020
Print Headline: Strange days, indeed