Pentagon plans for Maduro’s downfall: US military prepares to evacuate Americans and rebuild Venezuela

Anti-government protesters throw rocks at motorbike-mounted police officers as they fire tear gas back in Caracas during violent protests yesterday

The U.S. military is making preparations for the possible downfall of Nicolas Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, a top Navy admiral has said. 

The U.S. military is making preparations to rebuild Venezuelan infrastructure and evacuate Americans if Nicolas Maduro (pictured) is toppled in the coming days 

Defense chiefs have drawn up plans to restore the South American country’s infrastructure if Maduro is toppled in the coming days.  

The Pentagon has downplayed talk of pre-emptive military action to topple Maduro but said it had carried out ‘exhaustive planning’.  

Admiral Craig Faller insisted that the U.S. wanted a peaceful transfer of power but declared that his Southern Command was ready for any scenario.

Navy Admiral Craig Faller (pictured), the head of the U.S. Southern Command responsible for Latin America, said his military staff had made plans in case Maduro falls 
He said his military staff had made ‘Day Now’ plans to prepare for an immediate change of power as opposition leader Juan Guaido tries to topple Maduro. 
‘We call it Day Now because there is going to be a day when the legitimate government takes over, and it’s going to come when we least expect it – and it could be right now,’ Faller said.  
But Faller, the head of the Southern Command in Latin America, insisted: ‘Our leadership’s been clear: It has to be, should be, primarily a democratic transition.
estoring vital Venezuelan infrastructure would be a priority for the U.S. and its allies in the region after Maduro’s exit, he said. 
The mixed signals from Washington come a day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a military intervention was ‘possible’ if Maduro did not step down.
So far the Pentagon has helped to shuttle humanitarian aid to Colombia in the hope of transporting it to Venezuela, although Maduro has tried to block it at the border.’ 
U.S. officials have also ramped up its intelligence collection and intelligence sharing with allies such as Colombia. 
In addition they have made plans to evacuate non-combatant Americans from Venezuela should the need arise. 
Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said the United States had carried out ‘exhaustive planning’ on Venezuela. 
He also canceled a planned trip to Europe on Wednesday to deal with the South American crisis.      
Another top Pentagon official, Kathryn Wheelbarger, said defense chiefs ‘always review available options and plan for contingencies’.  
Opposition leader Guaido is recognized as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state by the United States, the European Union and numerous South American nations.  
The crisis has escalated dramatically after Guaido issued a video calling on the people to back a military uprising against Maduro. 
However the security services have yet to defect to Guaido in large numbers and remain the key to Maduro’s survival.  
The U.S. believes Maduro’s election victory last year was illegitimate and the latest crisis began when he was sworn in for a second term in January this year.  
Maduro’s faltering regime is backed by Russia, China, Turkey and Cuba among others.  
The 56-year-old has been in power since 2013 when he replaced his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, as Venezuelan president.