Following sanctions and aggressive diplomacy, Donald Trump tried to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power, refusing to recognise his presidency and instead backing leader of the Citizens Assembly Juan Guaido as the President. But Maduro has been backed by allies of his own, with Russia and China propping up his administration with generous loans and huge weapons exchanges attempting to deter the US from interference. Now Russian weapons are in Caracas – Sukhoi 30 jets – reminiscent of Russia's presence in Cuba in the Sixties when war was at one point an imminent prospect. Trump's strongman act was not backed up by a willingness to intervene physically in Venezuela, a bluff that Maduro saw right through according to Phil Gunson, an expert and analyst on Venezuela who works for International Crisis Group in Caracas.
He told Express.co.uk: "Well I certainly think aspects of US policy has been counter-productive in terms of finding a solution, I think the US should have been clearer from the beginning that this would be a case of negotiation rather than simply forcing Maduro from power which is what they've tried from the beginning.
"They clearly weren't able to do that, their strong hints that they were prepared to act with the military were bluffs, I don't think Trump is keen on military interference anywhere, and the Venezuelan government saw through that."
The consequence of this Caracas-Washington standoff is increased control for Putin on Trump's doorstep, and in an area where influence is key.
Russia and China's generosity towards Maduro's regime have differing motives according to Gunson, who says China's presence is purely economically inspired.
However, he believes Putin likes the idea of having a presence in Latin America as a one-up on Trump in the region.
Putin and Trump are grappling for control in Latin America (Image: getty)
Guaido declared himself