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US to call on Latin America, Caribbean ‘to do more’ about Venezuela

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Md. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

The Trump administration was to challenge Latin America and the Caribbean nations to do more to address the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuelaas Vice President Mike Pence represents the U.S. at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.

Pence gave a taste Friday of his message when he met with Venezuelan opposition leaders to announce $16 million in additional humanitarian aid and promised that the United States would push for additional sanctions against the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

“Under President Donald Trump, we want one message to be clear: We are with the people of Venezuela,” Pence said. “We oppose the tyranny, the repression, the dictatorship, the corruption. But we are with the people of Venezuela, and we’ll continue to do everything in our power to provide sustenance and support to those who have fled this tyranny.”

Trump has taken an aggressive posture toward Venezuela, leading efforts around the world to isolate the Maduro regime, which has allowed the once-mighty oil-rich nation to deteriorate to life-threatening levels.

The Trump administration has imposed more than 20 sanctions against Venezuelan officials and restricted U.S. investment and financial transactions, including those involving Venezuela’s new digital currency.

The United States has also galvanized the Europeans, Canadians, Panamanians and other Western Hemisphere nations to denounce Venezuela and impose their own restrictions, including freezing Venezuelan leaders’ assets or warning banks against dealing with Maduro and his officials.

“The United States is willing to go at it alone when we’re talking about Venezuela, but I think we’ve realized in this administration that the more stronger partnerships that we can form, the more likely our end goals and vision in Venezuela will be met,” a senior administration official said, previewing the summit goals.

But the administration has also increased its humanitarian aid. Unable to get inside the country to help, the Trump administration announced last month that it would provide $2.5 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuelan refugees who have fled into Colombian border towns fleeing starvation and oppression.

The administration is also considering contributing millions more to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees’ $46 million fund to address what the agency describes as the “biggest population movement in the Americas” in modern memory.

The State Department said the $16 million Pence announced is part of the UNHCR contribution and will help provide the people of Venezuela safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and shelter.

The administration understands the burden many of its partners have taken on absorbing thousands of fleeing Venezuelan refugees. But the administration says they will still ask partners to take even stronger steps to isolate the Maduro regime until its restores democratic institutions.

“That’s the challenge,” the administration official said. “We understand a lot of the countries in the region don’t have the same capabilities, the same sanctions programs, the same laws that we have. We’ve pushed our partners to do what they can.”

The official cited steps already taken, such as Panama’s announcement warning its banks from doing business with the Maduro regime and Costa Rica blocking travel of the Venezuelan defense minister.


© 2018 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.