Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday sought to ratchet up international pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro, chastising the United Nations Security Council for being slow to act against that government as a humanitarian crisis unfolds on Maduro’s watch.
Pence said that America is preparing a new resolution recognizing the legitimacy of Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela, and he urged the U.N. Security Council to pass it.
“Up to this point, while other international bodies have acted, the United Nations and this security council have refused to act,” Pence said, seated in the Security Council chamber. “But now that nations across this hemisphere have spoken, the time has come for the United Nations to recognize interim president Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela and seat his representative in this body.”
Pence also urged the U.N. to revoke the credential of Venezuela’s representative to the United Nations.
“With all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, you shouldn’t be here,” Pence said, as Venezuela’s representative seated at the Security Council table could be seen raising his eyebrows and vigorously shaking his head. “You should return to Venezuela. Tell Nicolás Maduro his time is up. It’s time for him to go.”
Those remarks come as U.S. officials worry about what they see as growing Chinese and Russian involvement in Venezuela. China and Russia—permanent members of the U.N. Security Council—along with Cuba continue to support Maduro, who has maintained power despite mounting sanctions and international condemnation, amid an economic collapse and humanitarian crisis in his country. China and Russia have stymied previous American efforts to rebuke Maduro at the U.N. and could do so again.
“Soon at President Trump’s direction the United States will announce additional action to hold Cuba accountable for its malign influence in Venezuela,” Pence said, as he also blasted Russian and Chinese efforts to “obstruct” at the Security Council.
Maduro’s government has been accused of using the prospects of food and even medical care as political instruments, turning basic necessities into bargaining chips for votes. More than three million Venezuelans have fled the country in the past several years.
The White House, meanwhile, recognized Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela in January, and more than 50 other countries have followed suit. The United States has also applied sanctions on more than 150 officials and organizations affiliated with Maduro, as well as sanctioning the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and vessels owned or operated by that company. On Wednesday, Pence announced an additional $60 million in humanitarian aid.
The Trump administration has not ruled out military action in the region, even as Pence on Wednesday reiterated a commitment to diplomatic and economic pressure first.
“Nations across the world have spoken,” he said. “It’s time for the United Nations to speak.”
Pence’s comments come as some activists, including the organization Human Rights Watch, call for the U.N. Security Council to take emergency measures to combat the crisis in Venezuela. The Organization of American States on Tuesday acknowledged Guaidó’s appointed ambassador to that body.
But efforts to ramp up U.N. involvement in Venezuela may meet continued resistance on the Security Council. In February, Russia and China opposed a U.S. resolution at the U.N. calling for unimpeded access to humanitarian aid and new elections in Venezuela. Pence urged the Security Council to rally against Maduro this time around as he outlined a new resolution recognizing Guaidó’s legitimacy.
“Today we urge every member of the Security Council, all United Nations member states, to support this resolution, to stand with the Venezuelan people as they rise up to restore … democracy and libertad to their nation,” he said.
He didn’t stay for the Security Council debate where Venezuela’s ambassador accused Pence of spreading “lies” and bashed the United States and United Kingdom for engaging in what he called “colonialism.”
Pence has been an especially visible champion of the administration’s Venezuela policy, frequently signaling that combating the crisis there remains a priority for the United States even as Maduro holds on. He traveled to Colombia to meet with Guaidó in February, where he reiterated the administration’s commitment to a diplomatic solution despite aggressive tweets from Trump.
“I made it clear to President Guaidó that we’re going to continue to call on allies to join with us,” Pence said. “We’re going to continue to isolate Maduro economically and diplomatically until democracy is restored.”
More recently, he has met with Guaidó’s wife. He has also stayed connected with members of the Venezuelan exile community in the United States, attending a roundtable in Miami and last week addressing members of the Venezuelan community in Houston.