The government said Wednesday that it would investigate reports that Argentine troops engaged in military exercises and games during the Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) presidency that “contemplated” an invasion of Venezuela.
The announcement came two days after Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro called for “an objective investigation” into the claims, which were first reported last Sunday by journalist Horacio Verbitsky’s online outlet, El Cohete a la Luna.
According to the veteran reporter, Argentina’s Armed Forces were engaged in a series of military exercises and games, codenamed ‘Puma,’ in mid-2019. Their main hypothesis was to plan for a possible regional intervention into Venezuela, the report claims.
The alleged plans are outlined in a series of leaked documents embedded within the report, which the Times has not been able to verify independently.
One document shows a plan indicating three corridors, according to the publication: a northern front consisting of a seaborne landing from the Caribbean Sea; a land strike across the frontier with Colombia in the Febo zone and a third attack from Brazil across the frontier with Ceres.
On Wednesday, Argentina’s Defence Minister Jorge Taiana told the Télam state news agency that he has requested “an exhaustive and detailed report” to determine “whether the current regulations were complied with, the law on Intelligence, Defence, Internal Security, as well as the nature and objectives of the exercise.”
Taking aim at the opposition, Taiana said Macri’s centre-right government, which at the time formed part of the US-backed Lima Group, had “an interventionist attitude in Venezuela” and that the open investigation “will allow us to clearly establish the political and military responsibilities arising from the events.”
“The government of the Frente de Todos [of Peronist president Alberto Fernández] has always defended respect for non-interference in the internal affairs of states, the peaceful resolution of disputes, regional integration and the preservation of South America as a zone of peace,” the minister declared.
Maduro demands answers
Maduro on Monday demanded answers regarding “preparations by the Argentine Army to invade Venezuela from Colombian territory," which he linked to the United States and Macri's recognition of opposition leader and then-National Assembly speaker Juan Guaidó (who was also recognised by some 50 other countries) as Venezuela's acting president in 2019.
In Caracas, a group of Venezuelan deputies also announced they would ask the head of Argentina’s Senate, Vice-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, to provide explanations.
“The article informs that the general entrusted with directing this operation is still serving in the Argentine Army,” said Maduro. “This denunciation seems credible to me because the continental right (beginning with Macri) went to extremes to break all the rules of peaceful co-existence between our nations.”
"Hopefully somebody in Argentina will dare to raise their voice so that there can be an objective investigation of this denunciation of Argentine military preparations to invade Venezuela from Colombian soil. That’s something very serious," said the Venezuelan leader.
Like his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, Maduro is prone to denouncing plans of "attacks" or "invasion" headed by the United States and its regional allies against Venezuela.
According to Verbitsky’s article, the Army, Navy and Air Force were involved in seven ‘Puma’ “sessions” between April and June 2019 which “contemplated the invasion of Venezuela.”
The dates coincide with the recognition of Guaidó by the United States and Argentina and with a failed military uprising named ‘Operación Libertad’ on April 30, 2019.
General Juan Martín Paleo, the head of the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff since March 2020, was the "commander of the rapid deployment force," the journalist claimed.
Diosdado Cabello, Maduro’s right-hand man, complained the Alberto Fernández government had not said anything previously on the subject.
"The United Socialist Party of Venezuela requires that it be made totally clear that there was an attempt against Venezuelan territory by the Argentine Army and that the Argentine government establish the necessary and pertinent responsibilities,” said Cabello. “That it [the government] has not pronounced itself until now, leaving everything as is, would make it seem that they were part of the same package.”
"We want to denounce the facts ventilated from Argentina showing the preparations for an invasion against Venezuelan territory in a military operation prepared by Argentine top brass," charged Cabello, according to the Venezuelan web portal Últimas Noticias.
"It causes great sadness to find out this way via a journalistic investigation. We haven’t heard any statement from the current Argentine government. We require that it be clarified, the PSUV requires that it be clarified," he added.
Cabello condemned "any military intervention, any attempt by any country to invade another. We will never be in favour of that. Our position is firm against any attempt to invade our fatherland."