AP NEWS

Mike Pence calls on nations to cut off Nicolas Maduro’s money

February 25, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence told Latin American allies Monday to cut off Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro financially, saying “it’s time to do more” by freezing any assets tied to the strongman and transferring his foreign holdings to the ownership of interim President Juan Guaido.

Mr. Pence said the U.S. will take the lead by imposing sanctions on three border-state governors implicated in violent weekend clashes near Colombia that left four people dead and aid trucks ablaze.

“These men worked to block aid for people in need and suppress peaceful protests and their actions will not go unpunished,” Mr. Pence said in a speech in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

The White House said the governors are staunch allies of Mr. Maduro who’ve supported protests against Mr. Guaido and his supporters.

The vice president said that in the coming days, President Trump will order additional sanctions on Venezuela’s shadowy financial networks to cut off Mr. Maduro. And while he did not signal a military role for the U.S., he did not rule it out.

“As we continue to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the Maduro regime, we hope for a peaceful transition to democracy,” Mr. Pence said. “But as President Trump has made clear, all options are on the table.”

Mr. Pence is trying to reassure Latin American partners and Mr. Guaido, the National Assembly leader who declared himself interim Venezuelan president with U.S. support, after weekend clashes forced them to figure out a Plan B for dealing with the crisis.

Mr. Pence said the U.S. is with Mr. Guadio “100 percent” and will not turn back until his people’s freedom their “libertad” is restored by shoving aside Mr. Maduro, who has been blamed for leading his country into financial and humanitarian ruin.

“Nicolas Maduro must go,” Mr. Pence told the Lima Group, a multi-nation coalition that seeks a peaceful end to Venezuela’s crisis.

Mr. Maduro has shown no signs of stepping aside and set up roadblocks to refuse aid through Colombia border towns. He views it as a precursor to U.S. intervention in his country.

Mr. Pence condemned Mr. Maduro’s roaming bands of foot soldiers for firing on innocent people amid protests at the border, calling it a “desperate act” by a leader clinging to power.

“The tyrant in Caracas danced as his henchman burned truckloads of food and medicine and murdered civilians,” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Guaido thanked the assembled dignitaries and expressed hope he can prevail over Mr. Maduro.

“The reality,” he said, “is we have a regime that is against its people.”

The two leaders then met with about three dozen families who had fled from Venezuela. Some of them became emotional and hugged the men.

“We’re with you,” Mr. Pence told one crying man, gripping his hand with both of his own.

The vice president told the crowd to “have faith that one day you’ll go home.”

Also Monday, the administration said it is pledging nearly $56 million in extra aid to support nearly 3.4 million Venezuelans who’ve fled the crisis.

This is in addition to U.S. aid packages stuck at the Colombian and Brazilian borders, bringing total assistance to Venezuela since fiscal 2017 to $195 million $152 million in humanitarian aid and about $43 million in development and economic assistance.