Politics

Pence Tells Venezuela Interim President Guaido, ‘We Are with You 100 Percent,’ Says Maduro Must Go

'We seek a peaceful transition of power,' he said as new sanctions are announced

Image Credit: YURI CORTEZ & FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence discussed the contentious situation in Venezuela on Monday after meeting with Juan Guaidó (shown above right), the interim president of the country.

Venezuela has faced economic hardships and civil unrest since its socialist economy began collapsing in recent years.

President Donald Trump and his administration have backed the interim president — and opposed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (above left).

Pence talked with reporters after meeting with Guaidó while in the neighboring country of Colombia.

“President Trump has made clear from the outset that all options are on the table,” Pence said from Bogota, Colombia.

“But we seek a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela. The sanctions we announced today and the additional aid we announced today, [and] calling on nations to join us in further isolating the Maduro regime economically, we believe creates an opportunity for that to occur.”

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Related: U.S. Calls on World to Recognize Venezuela’s New Leader

Pence also told the interim president, “We are with you 100 percent.”

Maduro has refused to give up power even after opponents in the national legislature took emergency actions to vote him out.

The administration has since built up diplomatic and economic pressure to force a peaceful transition of power. The administration announced before the press conference it had imposed new sanctions on four state governors in Venezuela.

“In my conversations with President Guaidó, he spoke to me about the brutality of this past weekend and the need to reaffirm that all options are on the table,” Pence said. “I assured him that they were. But we hope for better. We hope for a peaceful transition. We hope that Maduro and members of his regime who have supported his corruption and brutality will leave the country peacefully. We hope members of the armed forces, as nearly 200 have done already, will continue to defect.”

Trump officially recognized the interim president in a statement on January 23. He called the national assembly the only legitimate branch of government that was duly elected by the people. His administration has since deployed various sanctions, with the latest coming as Maduro’s forces blocked humanitarian aid convoys from entering the country.

“What President Guaidó talked to me the most about was the urgent need for additional humanitarian aid,” Pence said. “And I assured him of America’s resolve to continue to provide hundreds of tons of U.S. assistance in food and medicine, and to work with allies across the region to get those supplies into the country. I was very moved by President Guaidó’s deep compassion for the suffering for the people of  Venezuela.”

National security adviser John Bolton detailed on January 28 the diplomatic pressures the administration is leveraging to ensure a peaceful transition of power. The administration has already blocked $7 billion in assets from the Venezuelan state-run oil company and billions more in lost export proceeds over the next year.

Venezuela has spiraled into economic disaster and civil chaos since its former socialist president, Hugo Chávez, passed away in March 2013.

Maduro has since faced deadly protests and riots as civil unrest and desperation has taken hold. Many Venezuelans are starving due to shortages of food and other essentials.

Related: White House: U.S. ‘Stands with the People of Venezuela’

Maduro and his loyalists in the government have taken questionable actions to squash political opponents.

The Venezuela Supreme Court stripped the National Assembly of its power months after the anti-socialists elected a majority in December 2015.

Government forces have also killed protesters and rioters.

The economic downturn has been severe for the South American nation. Venezuelan inflation rate hit 1,300,000 percent over the year, according to some estimates, in November of 2018.

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