The Trump administration challenged partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to do more to address the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela during this weekend’s Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru.
Vice President Mike Pence delivered the message on behalf of President Donald Trump during his speech Saturday before more than 30 heads of state. The Trump administration says the message is part of the U.S. government’s vision moving forward as it deals with the crisis in Venezuela.
Pence gave a taste Friday of that 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 leader Nicolás 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 a very aggressive posture toward Venezuela, leading efforts around the world to isolate the Maduro regime that has allowed the once-mighty oil rich nation to deteriorate to life-threatening levels.
The Trump administration has slapped 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 members of the hemisphere to denounce Caracas and issue their own measures, 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 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 special request to address what the UN group 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 still asked its partners to take even stronger steps to isolate the Maduro regime until its restores democratic institutions.
“That’s the challenge,” the senior administration 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 senior administration official cited steps already taken, such as Panama’s announcement warning its banks from doing business with the Maduro regime and the Costa Ricans blocking travel of the Venezuelan minister of defense.
“A strong and secure hemisphere is as important for the hemisphere as it is for the United States,” said the senior administration official.