In a speech on Friday, Vice President Mike Pence sent a stark warning to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro while emphasizing that the United States now recognizes Juan Guaido as “the only legitimate President of Venezuela.”
Speaking at a Venezuela solidarity event in Florida, Pence issued the warning at a time when many observers are musing about the possibility of war brewing in the South American nation. While Pence stopped well short of threatening military action, a close reading of his speech indicates that the Trump administration has certainly not taken the option off the table.
“Venezuela is a failed state, and failed states know no boundaries, have no borders. A Venezuela overrun with drug smugglers, gangs, human traffickers is a danger to all people and all nations in this hemisphere,” Pence said. “And so we stand. We stand for freedom and security for the Venezuelan people. We stand for the security of both our nations. And I promise you, the United States will continue to stand with the Venezuelan people, and we will continue to stand up to their oppressors.
“To that end, the United States will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy,” he continued. “But those looking on should know this: All options are on the table.
“Maduro’s tyranny must end, and it must end now,” he said. “But as the Venezuelan people know, their oppressors do not act alone. Under President Donald Trump, the United States has also stood up to those who have aided and abetted the dictatorship in Venezuela. The truth is, the dictator has lost the support of his people, and even now is beginning to lose the support of his military.”
President Trump has been busy building a coalition of nations willing to condemn Maduro and support the interim president, but so far, the dictator appears committed to hanging on to his weakening leadership of the nation. This may grow increasingly difficult to do; in recent weeks, the Trump administration has hammered Venezuela with sanctions, including the freezing of $7 billion in assets belonging to the country’s state-owned oil company.
In an interview with CBS News on Sunday, President Trump said it was no longer profitable to negotiate with Maduro.
“So many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country,” he said. “That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world.”
Trump echoed his vice president, telling CBS News that a military option remained on the table.
No one in the administration – or the country, for that matter – wants to see us go to war with Maduro’s military, but we’ll see what happens. Trump is not going to stand idly by and watch Maduro turn himself into the Western Hemisphere’s answer to Bashar al-Assad.
It could get ugly.