US TROOPS are involved in regional exercises on Venezuela’s southern border this week.
Washington’s Voice of America (VoA) propaganda broadcaster reported on Wednesday that 50 US military personnel were taking part in the Amazon Log manoeuvres.
Almost 2,000 soldiers, including 1,550 Brazilians, 150 from Colombia and 120 from Peru, are conducting the exercises in Brazil’s vast northern Amazonas state, which borders the southern Venezuelan state of the same name.
Military observers from 19 countries, including Venezuela, Britain, France, Canada and Japan, are also present.
The drills, which began on Monday, are ostensibly preparation to defend the region from drug traffickers, environmental destruction and illegal immigration — or to respond to a mass exodus of refugees.
VoA reported that the operation is focused on Venezuela, from where Brazilian federal police claimed more than 30,000 people have fled.
Four months of deadly regime-change riots incited by Venezuela’s US-backed opposition claimed 124 lives this spring and summer.
But calm has since returned and the third round of elections this year are set for next month.
Brazil’s unelected and corruption-mired President Michel Temer, whose approval ratings stand at about 3 per cent, has ratified military co-operation deals with the US that were blocked under his ousted predecessor Dilma Rousseff.
The exercises caused controversy in Brazil’s Congress.
Venezuela’s regional ally Bolivia refused to take part in the manoeuvres out of concern that they would lead to the establishment of a permanent US military base in the area.
Venezuelan pundit Jeanpier Anaya told the public VTV channel on Wednesday that the exercises were being held in the region because its conditions were similar to those in southern Venezuela “where they want to work to establish a humanitarian channel.”
“This plan is intended to control the Amazon in defence of the interests of big capital over the territory and its resources,” Mr Anaya said, “in view of this zone being where an invasion can be prepared logistically.”
“That’s why it’s important for the North Americans,” he stressed. “And to justify the troop movements, they use the argument of humanitarian aid, a discourse also employed by sectors of the Venezuelan opposition.”