Venezuela’s disputed and embattled president, Nicolas Maduro, is so fearful of his own people that he has called on Cuban guards to serve as his security detail, a top U.S. military official said.
Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Maduro, fearing for his own safety, has “completely surround[ed]” himself with Cuban security. “I think it’s a good sense of where the loyalty of the Venezuelan people are, that his immediate security force is made up of Cubans,” Faller told the committee.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R- Ark., surprised by the information, asked how many of these Secret Service-style guards Maduro has in the country.
The answer: “I don’t have that number” but “I’d say there are many.”
Faller added that Russia and China have been involved in what intelligence officials say are measures to support Maduro’s regime. “We’ve seen reporting of Russian security forces being flown in,” he said. “China’s not been helpful in a diplomatic way, I’ll leave that to the diplomats but China’s in there and they’re involved in cyber ways that are not helpful to a democratic outcome.”
Faller also spoke to the humanitarian crisis facing the Venezuelan people, adding that not even the disputed president's army is immune: “The rank and file are starving just like their population.”
The United States, which has recognized opposition leader Jaun Guaido as interim president, has sent aid to Venezuela despite Maduro’s refusal to accept it.
On Thursday loads of food and medicine rolled into the town of Cucuta, which is just across the river from Venezuela. A makeshift fence on the road attempted to barricade its path.
Maduro has denied any humanitarian crisis in his struggling country.
Fox News' Lucas Tomlinson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.