In an escalation of US pressure on Venezuela, Vice President Mike Pence will be in Colombia’s capital Bogota on Monday to demand the resignation of President Nicolas Maduro.
The White House released a statement saying Pence will voice the US’ “unwavering support for interim President Juan Guaido and highlight the Venezuelan people’s fight for democracy over dictatorship.”
Guaido declared himself interim president on January 23, the day after a phone call from Pence, who promised full support from the US, leaving little doubt that the US was behind Guaido’s announcement.
During the call, “Pence pledged that the U.S. would back Guaido if he seized the reins of government from Nicolas Maduro by invoking a clause in the South American country’s constitution,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Guaido is president of Venezuela’s National Assembly and a leader of the opposition to Maduro.
The White House said that in the call, Pence praised Guaido’s leadership and “encouraged Guaido to build unity among political groups, and pledged continued support from the United States until democracy is restored.”
In Bogota, Pence will make a speech to representatives of the Lima Group of 14 nations, including Colombia, that support the US push to drive out Maduro.
But unlike the US and Colombia, the Lima Group has consistently rejected the possibility of a military intervention.
The validity of Maduro’s election has been questioned and there is a severe shortage of food, medicine, gasoline and other life-maintaining goods in the country. Maduro has refused all outside aid, saying it’s tainted by US eagerness to gain control of Venezuela’s oil industry.
Pence will meet Colombian President Ivan Duque and officials from other Latin nations “to define concrete steps that support the Venezuelan people and a transition to democracy,” according to the White House.
Pence will also meet with Venezuelan families who have fled Maduro’s regime.
Pence has been used more frequently internationally to repeat President Donald Trump’s and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s world view that the US will go it alone on a number of issues, ranging from Iran to North Korea to NATO.
He is likely to receive a warm reception from Duque and the Lima 14, in contrast to the humiliating silence that followed some of his comments recently in European speeches. In both Poland and Germany, Spence talked about Trump and his views on Europe and then paused for applause. There was none. After an awkward silence, Pence continued speaking.
His visit to Bogota will be the latest example of the US using Colombia as the backdrop for a big media event aimed at forcing out Maduro.
The build-up of supplies at Cucuta, on the Colombia/Venezuela border, continues to draw world attention. The US has used images of the blockaded bridge at Cucuta to show Maduro’s refusal to accept international aid.
But Canada’s CBC News reports that the Tienditas Bridge, the site of the stand-off, has never been open, despite being completed in 2016. CBC News says that “already heated tensions between the two countries” led to a stalemate in talks to open the new bridge. Among Venezuela’s concerns was the use of nearby bridges to smuggle goods from Colombia to Venezuela.