CUCUTA/BOGOTA, Colombia—Vice President Mike Pence joined regional leaders from across Latin America and Canada on the morning of Feb. 25 to denounce the blocking of aid into Venezuela and announce new sanctions against Venezuelan regime leader Nicolas Maduro.
The meeting of the Lima Group of nations formed to resolve the Venezuela crisis was the first since the failed push to get U.S.-donated aid into Venezuela, which resulted in aid trucks being pushed back and set on fire—widely reported to be done at the hands of pro-Maduro criminal groups.
Nearly 300 were injured over the weekend as individuals attempting to deliver the aid clashed with Venezuela’s National Guard and groups loyal to Maduro. Five people, including two who were indigenous to Venezuela’s southern limit with Brazil, were killed.
After Juan Guaidó called for a minute’s silence for the five people who lost their lives in the aid initiative, Pence told the international press and presidents from across Latin America that it was “unconscionable that Maduro blocked hundreds of tonnes of aid from getting to his impoverished people,” and repeatedly denounced that the dictator “danced while trucks full of aid and medicine burned.” Guaidó has been recognized by Washington and other nations as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president.
“Socialism is dying and liberty and prosperity are being reborn before our eyes,” Pence said. “Despite the brutality that the world witnessed this weekend, a new day is coming to Latin America.”
He requested that other Lima Group members freeze all assets of Venezuelan national oil firm PDSVA; to transfer any ownership of Venezuelan assets from Maduro to Guaidó, and to introduce visa restrictions to anyone in Maduro’s inner circle.
“In the days ahead … the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks,” Pence said.
He also reiterated President Donald Trump’s calls to the Venezuelan military to defect following over 100 soldiers who fled Venezuela for Colombia over the weekend putting down their weapons and asking for refuge.
Senior U.S. figures have maintained that military intervention is not off the table to resolve the Venezuelan crisis. In a tweet on Feb. 23, Guaidó said he would “formally raise to the international community that we must have all options open to achieve the liberation of this country that struggles and will continue to fight.”
Pence also didn’t rule out military intervention, stressing that Trump “has made clear all options are on the table” to seek an end to the regime.
Some countries, including Brazil and Chile, have so far ruled out military intervention.
Going forward, Pence committed $56 million in additional humanitarian assistance to support the region’s response to the crisis. Over three million Venezuelans have fled widespread food and medicine shortages and hyperinflation that make even the most basic items unaffordable, as well as a growing number of state-committed human rights abuses.
Pence also said that the coalition supporting the Venezuelan opposition would continue to seek points in Latin America from which future aid initiatives into Venezuela could be launched.
Colombian President Ivan Duque, a strong regional ally to Trump and Guaidó, suggested those entry points could come from Colombia, announcing that his country would continue collecting aid from the United States.