Pence To Visit Latin America As Venezuela Spirals Deeper Into Unrest

WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - US Vice President Mike Pence is set to embark on a trip to South ...

Alliance News 13 August, 2017 | 8:50AM
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WASHINGTON (Alliance News) - US Vice President Mike Pence is set to embark on a trip to South and Central America on Sunday as concerns mount in the region over growing unrest in Venezuela.

Pence's first stop will be Venezuela's western neighbour Colombia, where he is scheduled to hold discussions with President Juan Manuel Santos, the White House said. He is then set to visit Argentina, Chile and Panama.

Venezuela is expected to be a topic during talks in each of the four countries, a senior administration official told reporters in a conference call.

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

The official said the US had been "firm in both word and deed" against the Maduro regime, and it's important to get others in the region to follow suit, noting that the four countries on Pence's itinerary have done so.

Pence will discuss economic and diplomatic options as well as "every tool that's available" to resolve the situation in Venezuela, the administration official said.

A theme of the trip will be that while Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama represent a future that includes freedom, opportunity, prosperity, trade and growth, Venezuela is going into the past of dictatorship and oppression, the official said.

Pence will deliver a major policy address in Buenos Aires in which he will "outline a vision of productive engagement with like-minded partners across the region" and shared commitments to security, prosperity and democracy, the official said.

The vice president also is expected to promote stronger economic and security ties in the four countries.

Venezuela has experienced months of protests against Maduro's efforts to silence the opposition and expand his grip on power. Tens of thousands of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia and Brazil to escape the country's economic and political turmoil.

President Donald Trump said Friday that the US has not ruled out a military option for dealing with the "very dangerous mess" in Venezuela.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry on Saturday rejected any military means in resolving the crisis.

"All measures should be peaceful and respect the sovereignty of Venezuela," a statement said.

Colombia has been among the sharpest critics of the Venezuelan government. Its statement on Saturday said despite the current difficulty in reaching a peaceful resolution through negotiations, it still believes that is the proper course.

More than 120 people have died in anti-government demonstrations in Venezuela since April. The demonstrations began after the Supreme Court attempted to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its powers.

Maduro held a vote on July 30 to elect a constituent assembly with the aim of rewriting the constitution. The 545-member body, stacked with Maduro supporters that include his wife and son, has granted itself the power to overrule the National Assembly.

Despite having the world's largest oil reserves, Venezuela is also suffering rampant inflation and chronic shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods in an economic crisis worsened by the 2014 collapse of global oil prices.

By Gretel Johnston and Denis Duettmann, dpa

Copyright dpa

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