Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro may flee Venezuela through an underground tunnel network in the event of a U.S. invasion, a former National Guard official revealed on Tuesday.
Former National Guard official Germán Varela told CNN en Español that in the event of the regime collapsing, Maduro and other senior officials have various options at their disposal to escape or seek refuge.
“There are three tunnels, the first goes from the Miraflores [presidential] Palace to the White Palace, passing under the Andrés Bello Avenue, the second tunnel goes from the White Palace to the Guardia de Honor regiment, and the third tunnel goes from the same White Palace to a separate entrance of the Guardia de Honor regiment,” Valera said.
“These tunnels are interconnected,” he continued. “If at any time they want to leave these tunnels, they will have to do it from the main doors of each of these buildings.”
Un oficial retirado de la Fuerza Armada de Venezuela dice tener información de inteligencia sobre unos supuestos túneles y búnkeres que servirían de refugio a Nicolás Maduro en caso de una operación militar de Estados Unidos en su contra. https://t.co/uuVScBnoNe pic.twitter.com/DxmDQM9UUC
— CNN en Español (@CNNEE) May 13, 2019
Varela added that he is in regular contact with members of Venezuela’s security forces, who tell him that Maduro “lives in constant fear at the threat of a U.S. military option” and that his soldiers are unwilling to try and fend off any U.S. attacks.
“He feels nervous, as he is paranoid that at any moment a special operation could enter that could take him and automatically remove him from power,” he explained. “[In the event of a military invasion], soldiers would leave the barracks because they do not want to face and do not have the operational readiness to confront any foreign force.”
President Donald Trump has long refused to dismiss the possibility of a military invasion of Venezuela, which Maduro’s socialist regime has transformed from a thriving oil-rich nation to one of the world’s gravest humanitarian disasters. The Trump administration has not pursued the use of force, however, instead taking steps to weaken the regime and its resources, sanctioning various parts of the state-run economy as well as senior officials and their families. The U.S. has also thrown its support behind President Juan Guaidó, who in April announced that part of the military had abandoned Maduro and was willing to support a transition to democracy.
As of press time, Maduro appears to have retained the support of loyal high-ranking military officials as well as the military backing of Russia. According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Maduro was prepared to step down and seek refuge in Cuba following the desertions, but ultimately decided to stay on and fight for power on the advice of the Russian government.