Pence Tries to Soften President Trump’s Threat of Military Action in Venezuela

WASHINGTON (Tribune Washington Bureau/TNS) -
Pence venezuela
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (L) and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia on Sunday. (Colombian Presidency/Handout via Reuters)

Cast once again in the role of interpreter of President Trump’s comments, Vice President Mike Pence is touring Latin America and attempting to dispel his boss’ threat of military action against Venezuela.

Trump on Friday said he would not “rule out” a “military option” to confront the crisis in Venezuela, where the increasingly authoritarian practices of leftist President Nicolas Maduro have touched off waves of deadly political violence and humanitarian disaster.

Trump’s threat was roundly decried in Latin America just as Pence headed out for a weeklong, four-nation tour on Sunday.

Speaking at a news conference late Sunday with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in the coastal city of Cartagena, Pence said Trump spoke with “resolve” but still wants a peaceful solution.

“President Trump is a leader who says what he means and means what he says, but the president sent me here to continue to marshal the unprecedented support of countries across Latin America to achieve by peaceable means the restoration of democracy in Latin America, and we believe it is achievable by those means,” Pence said.

“You hear in President Trump’s words the resolve of the United States of America to see this through, to restore democracy and constitutional government in Venezuela,” he added.

Most of Latin America has been united in efforts to pressure the Maduro government and to back economic sanctions imposed by the United States against Maduro and several of his associates.

Several Latin American countries have even said they would consider sanctions of their own. Until recently, much of Latin America was reluctant to appear to be intervening in a neighbor’s internal affairs, especially at Washington’s behest.

But oil-rich Venezuela now appears on the verge of collapse, which would send refugees fleeing to other parts of Latin America and cause regional turmoil.

Pence spoke alongside Santos, who sternly warned that no country in Latin America would support U.S. military action.

“I told the vice president that the possibility of military intervention in Venezuela should not be considered,” Santos said.