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Pence Says U.S. Won't Stand By As Venezuela ‘Collapses Into Dictatorship’


COLOMBIA -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a joint press conference with Colombian President at the Presidential guest house in Cartagena, August 13, 2017

By RFE/RL

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has said the United States would bring all its power to bear to see democracy restored in Venezuela.

"President [Donald] Trump has made it very clear that we will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship," Pence told reporters on August 14 in Cartagena, Colombia.

He argued that "a failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of our entire hemisphere and the people of the United States."

Pence arrived in Colombia on August 13 as part of a weeklong trip to Latin America amid rising tensions in Venezuela.

Pence’s journey to Central and South America comes after Trump on August 11 said he would not rule out a "military option" in response to the crisis in Venezuela.

The Colombian Foreign Ministry has condemned Trump's statement, saying it opposes any military measures.

During a news conference, Santos said he told Pence the United States must not even consider military action in Venezuela.

"America is a continent of peace,” Santos said. “It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such."

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on August 14 sought to use the threat of U.S. military intervention to galvanize support in his troubled nation. He ordered the Venezuelan army to hold drills in preparation for an "imperialist" invasion.

"Everyone has to join the defense plan, millions of men and women. Let's see how the American imperialists like it," Maduro told supporters in Caracas, urging them to join the two-day exercises on August 26 and 27 involving both soldiers and civilians.

Maduro also asked the parliament, which is heavily skewed in his favor after disputed elections last month, to investigate whether opposition politicians support Trump's threatened use of force to resolve the country's political crisis.

The Pentagon once again on August 14 denied it has any plans to invade Venezuela, but the Latin American country's defense minister Vladimir Padrino said that Trump's warning that he would consider using force "dropped the mask" and revealed the true intentions of the United States.

Venezuela is expected to be the key topic of conversation during his stop in Colombia and in three other countries -- Argentina, Chile, and Panama, a senior U.S. administration official told reporters.

"All of these countries have demonstrated their clear support for democracy, rejecting the dictatorship of Maduro's regime," the official said.

Venezuela has been the scene of violent protests against Maduro's moves to increase his power and silence the opposition.

Thousands of people have fled to Colombia and Brazil to escape the country's economic and political turmoil.

Iran maintains a very close relationship with Venezuela and has even helped train Venezuelan security forces.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa

Mn/ab/ph

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