US Vice President Mike Pence has reiterated support for Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, saying Washington will forgo “dialogue” and consider “all options” to help the Latin American country’s self-proclaimed president against the legal government of President Nicolas Maduro.
“The United States will continue to assert all diplomatic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy, but those looking on should know this: All options are on the table,” Pence told a crowd of Venezuelans in the state of Florida on Friday.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) January 30, 2019
“And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States,” he warned. “This is no time for dialogue. This is time for action.”
The remarks came days after Maduro said he was ready to sit down with the opposition leader, Guaido, who declared himself “interim president” last month.
“I am ready to sit at the negotiation table with the opposition for us to talk for the benefit of Venezuela, for the sake of peace and its future,” Maduro told Russian news agency RIA in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.
The administration of President Donald Trump has wasted no efforts in stepping up pressure on Maduro since Guaido challenged his leadership. US President Donald Trump immediately recognized the opposition leader as the legitimate president of the oil-rich country, and soon after that Washington imposed unilateral sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in an attempt to boost the opposition.
The move prompted a furious response from Maduro, who vowed to take legal action against Washington.
Bolton threatens to send Maduro to Guantanamo
Meanwhile, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, who has floated possible military action against Venezuela, pushed the envelope even further, suggesting that Maduro should choose between retirement or possible imprisonment in the US military’s notorious detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I wish him [Maduro] a long, quiet retirement on a pretty beach far from Venezuela. And the sooner he takes advantage of that, the sooner he’s likely to have a nice, quiet retirement on a pretty beach rather than being in some other beach area like Guantanamo,” Bolton .told a radio interview on Friday.
NSA John Bolton suggests Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro could end up in Guantanamo. Also seems like the Trump administration is expecting tomorrow to be showdown day in Venezuela as protests expected nationwide. Crazy interview: https://t.co/3lnZEUj7ch
— Eva Golinger (@evagolinger) February 1, 2019
Guaido desperately trying to reach out to soldiers
Guaido, who had claimed earlier that he was involved in talks with military and civilian officials in Venezuela “behind the scenes” to convince them to defect, published an open letter, calling on the military to abandon Maduro and join him.
He also called on his supporters to take to the streets on Saturday and demand Maduro’s resignation.
The self-proclaimed president also said that he would guarantee “safe passage out of the country” for Maduro and “everyone who is prepared to put themselves on the side of the constitution in order to recover the democratic order.”
Maduro, who began his second six-year term as president in January, has the backing of the country’s army amid the political crisis. Reiterating support for Maduro, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said earlier this week that his soldiers were ready to die for the country.
EU divided over Venezuela
On Thursday, the European Parliament recognized Guaido as the de facto head of state in Venezuela and urged the European Union (EU)’s all 28 member states to follow suit and consider him “the only legitimate interim president.”
Italy, however, defied the call, warning the bloc against a Libya-style regime change.
“Today, the greatest interest we have is to avoid a new war in Venezuela,” Manlio Di Stefano, Italy’s deputy foreign minister, said Thursday.
Referring to the 2011 ouster of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi during a NATO-led military intervention, he called the decision to invade the African country a “mistake” as it led to more instability not only for the country but the whole region.
“We must prevent this from happening in Venezuela,” Di Stefano warned.
Libya has been the scene of increasing violence since 2011, when Gaddafi, who had ruled the country since a 1969 coup, was toppled from power.
Maduro himself has warned that Washington’s actions were motivated by the desire to “steal” Venezuela’s massive oil reserves, “as they did in Iraq and Libya.”
Bolivia stands with Venezuelan president
Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was in Caracas on his way home from a trip to the United Nations in New York City, wrote in a Twitter post that he stopped in the Venezuelan capital to express his full support to Maduro.
Nos reunimos con el Hno. Pdte. de #Venezuela @NicolasMaduro y le expresamos todo nuestro apoyo ante el golpismo intervencionista del imperio que pretende adueñarse del patrimonio venezolano, violando el derecho internacional. #Bolivia apoya el diálogo para evitar enfrentamientos pic.twitter.com/xLvDTapgoB
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) February 2, 2019
“We are meeting with my fellow President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and in the face of the overthrow and intervention by the empire that wants to appropriate Venezuela’s national wealth in violation of international law. Bolivia supports dialogue aimed at avoiding conflicts,” Morales wrote.
Besides Bolivia, other countries like Russia, China and Iran have also expressed support for Maduro against what he has described as an coup openly led by the United States.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also made it clear that he would only work with Maduro to help resolve the tensions.