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Venezuela crisis expected to top agenda during Mike Pence trip to Latin America

World News | Published:

The US vice-president plans to meet with Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos, before making trips to Argentina, Chile and Panama.

Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Latin America comes amid unrest in Venezuela and concern by its neighbours about a possible American military role.

Mr Pence planned to meet with Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, later on Sunday at the start of a week-long 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.

Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro (right) has been accused by the United States of a power grab (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

President Donald 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.

Mr Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that Venezuela “could very much become a risk” to the US if it descended into further chaos.

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Mike Pompeo
CIA director Mike Pompeo (far right) President Donald Trump, accompanied by, from left, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Vice President Mike Pence and CIA director Mike Pompeo backed Donald Trump’s message which he says aimed to bring “hope” to the Venezuelan people (Evan Vucci/AP)

Yet a Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee who calls himself “a pretty hawkish guy” expressed scepticism 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’s Lindsey Graham told Fox News Sunday, adding: “I don’t see one in Venezuela in terms of the military force.”

Senator Lindsey Graham
Senator Lindsey Graham says American intervention should only take place where there is a national security risk (Scott Applewhite/AP)

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 US 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.

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