Vice President Mike Pence on Monday called on world leaders to levy sanctions against the government of Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.
“To leaders around the world: It’s time. There can be no bystanders in Venezuela’s struggle for freedom,” Pence said in Bogota, Colombia at a meeting of the Lima Group, a group of mostly Latin American leaders. “The day is coming soon when Venezuela’s long nightmare will end and Venezuela will once more be free.”
“Nicolas Maduro is a usurper with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go,” the vice president continued. “Our message today very much was intended to say to Mexico, to Uruguay, to nations across the eastern Caribbean that they need to come off the sidelines.”
Pence also announced new U.S. sanctions on Venezuela intended to cripple Maduro’s regime, including cracking down on several governors who back him. The U.S. already enforces heavy sanctions on Venezuela’s mammoth state-owned oil and natural-gas company, PDVSA, which is one of the government’s keys to monetizing the country’s vast oil reserves, the largest in the world.
“In the days ahead, the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks,” Pence promised. “We will work with all of you to find every last dollar they have stolen and work to return it to the Venezuelan people.”
Pence pledged nearly $56 million in additional aid to “our partners in the region as they come to the aid of the Venezuelan people,” and urged them to support Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader recognized by the U.S. and dozens of other countries as Venezuela’s rightful leader, with whom he met before his speech.
Over the weekend, Maduro’s troops skirmished with opposition forces and destroyed foreign food and medical aid at border points, killing at least four people and injuring hundreds.
“Today’s events force me to make a decision: to formally propose to the international community that we must have all options open to secure the freedom of our country,” Guaidó wrote on Twitter after the violent clashes.
“These men worked to block aid for people in need and suppress peaceful protests. Their actions will not go unpunished,” Pence said. “We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy, but as President Trump has made clear, all options are on the table.”