Venezuela set to dominate Pence’s Latin Amer­i­can trip

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s visit to Latin America comes amid un­rest in Venezuela and con­cern by its neigh­bors about a pos­si­ble Amer­i­can mil­i­tary role. Pence planned to meet with Colom­bia’s pres­i­dent, Juan Manuel San­tos, later Sun­day at the start of a week­long trip likely to be dom­i­nated by con­ver­sa­tions about the cri­sis in Venezuela. The United States ac­cuses Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro of a power grab that has sparked deadly protests and con­dem­na­tion across the re­gion.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Fri­day said he would not rule out a “mil­i­tary op­tion” in re­sponse to Maduro’s moves. That state­ment drew quick con­dem­na­tion, in­clud­ing from the Colom­bian For­eign Min­istry, which op­posed any “mil­i­tary mea­sures and the use of force,” and said ef­forts to re­solve Venezuela’s break­down in democ­racy should be peace­ful and re­spect its sovereignty. But Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to get a han­dle on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion un­der Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro’s em­bat­tled gov­ern­ment and “un­der­stand bet­ter how this cri­sis might evolve.” The US has im­posed sanc­tions against Maduro and more than two-dozen cur­rent and former of­fi­cials in re­sponse to a crack­down on op­po­si­tion lead­ers and the re­cent elec­tion of a pro-gov­ern­ment assem­bly given the job of rewrit­ing the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion. “When you look at con­tin­gen­cies, when you look at what if - what if the suf­fer­ing of the Venezue­lan peo­ple in­creases by or­ders of mag­ni­tude - what more can we do with our part­ners in the re­gion to pro­tect the Venezue­lan peo­ple and pre­vent an even greater hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe?” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.” “The pres­i­dent never takes op­tions off the ta­ble in any of these sit­u­a­tions and what we owe him are op­tions,” he said.

McMaster said the US would “con­tinue a series of ac­tions against the Maduro regime which aim to strengthen the op­po­si­tion and to reach out to those who are mem­bers of this op­pres­sive regime to tell them it’s time to re­con­sider your ac­tions and your sup­port for this dic­ta­tor.” Mean­time, Pence has sched­uled other stops in Ar­gentina, Chile and Panama, giv­ing speeches and meet­ing with lead­ers. He will tour the newly ex­panded Panama Canal.In Colom­bia, Pence was ex­pected to high­light trade, busi­ness in­vest­ment and other ties be­tween the na­tions, in­clud­ing US sup­port for Bo­gota’s ef­forts to im­ple­ment its peace deal with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia. The US prob­a­bly will seek as­sur­ances that Colom­bia is tak­ing se­ri­ously a surg­ing coca pro­duc­tion that’s been blamed par­tially on San­tos’ de­ci­sion in 2015 to stop us­ing crop-de­stroy­ing her­bi­cides.

— AFP

CARA­CAS: An op­po­si­tion ac­tivist aims a sling­shot on Satur­day dur­ing a protest.

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