Venezuela ex­pected to dominate Pence trip to Latin America.

Vice pres­i­dent to visit Latin America

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY JILL COLVIN

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.

Mr. 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 Trump on Fri­day said he would not rule out a “mil­i­tary op­tion” in re­sponse to Mr. 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.

CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo said Mr. Trump, by rais­ing the prospect of pos­si­ble mil­i­tary ac­tion, was try­ing “to give the Venezue­lan peo­ple hope and opportunity to cre­ate a sit­u­a­tion where democ­racy can be re­stored.” Mr. Pom­peo told “Fox News Sun­day” that Venezuela “could very much be­come a risk” to the U.S. if it de­scended into fur­ther chaos.

Yet a Repub­li­can on the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee who calls him­self “a pretty hawk­ish guy” ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the idea of Amer­i­can troops in Cara­cas.

“I’m open-minded to a rea­son, but at the end of the day, our mil­i­tary should be de­ployed when there’s a na­tional se­cu­rity in­ter­est that can be ar­tic­u­lated to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham told “‘Fox News Sun­day.” “I don’t see one in Venezuela in terms of the mil­i­tary force.”

Mr. Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion wants to get a han­dle on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion un­der Mr. Maduro’s em­bat­tled gov­ern­ment and “un­der­stand bet­ter how this cri­sis might evolve.”

The U.S. has im­posed sanc­tions against Mr. 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?” Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. 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.

Mr. McMaster said the U.S. 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, Mr. 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, Mr. Pence was ex­pected to high­light trade, busi­ness in­vest­ment and other ties be­tween the na­tions, in­clud­ing U.S. sup­port for Bo­gota’s ef­forts to im­ple­ment its peace deal with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia.


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