Keeping an Eye on Venezuela

US Southern Command boss Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly said he is monitoring internal violence and political unrest in Venezuela. Speaking to reporters Thursday at the Pentagon, Kelly said he is concerned about the long-term economic impacts of the crisis on South America if street clashes between opposition protestors and militias aligned with President Nicolas Maduro continue. SOUTHCOM currently has “zero mil-to-mil relations with the Venezuelans,” Kelly said, adding he has not had significant contacts in years. “I’m looking at [the situation], I’m watching it,” said Kelly, noting he and his senior staff are in contact with both the US State Department and the US Embassy in Caracas. Kelly said he also recently spoke with the charge d’affaires recently to assess the situation from US staff still remaining in country, as there is no current US ambassador serving. “We are just watching and waiting, we are letting the Venezuelans work it out,” Kelly said. In addition, Kelly said he is concerned about what would happen if the “basically free” Venezuelan oil sent to smaller nations, such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, and others, stops flowing due to the crisis. These economies would be severely impacted and destabilized as a result, he added. (Kelly transcript)