U.S. Vice President Mike Pence encountered resistance from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Sunday over President Donald Trump’s threat to use military action in Venezuela.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Santos in Cartagena, Pence did not rule out using military force, but he did not directly talk about it either.
Pence, however, told the Colombian president that the US would much prefer what he called a “peaceable” solution for Venezuela.
He said there are many options available to pressure the Maduro regime in Venezuela, including increasing economic and diplomatic pressure. Pence assured Santos that the U.S. will not stand by as Venezuela “crumbles” and slides into dictatorship.
He said a failed state in Venezuela endangers the entire continent. Pence said Trump sent him to Latin America to marshal and consolidate regional support for the need to help the Venezuelan people.
Santos said no Latin America country would accept any form of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and that it should never even be considered. Recalling more than a century of U.S. military action throughout Latin America, Santos said no Latin leader wants “that phantom” to reappear.
He said an illegal constituent assembly is killing democratic institutions in Venezuela, “it is the coup de grâce we support all the measures adopted by the U.S. government, and we will support additional measures,” adding that “we always look for a negotiated solution and, above all, a peaceful solution.”
Santos said “America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such.”
Two days after U.S. administration imposed sanctions on Venezuela, Trump said Friday that a military option against Venezuela was on the table, describing the situation there as a “dangerous mess.” Venezuela called Trump’s threat “reckless.”
Earlier Sunday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that Trump talked about the possibility of military action to “give the Venezuelan people hope and opportunity to create a situation where democracy can be restored.
Pence and Santos also discussed drug and cocaine trafficking and Colombia’s so far successful peace agreement ending 50 years of war with FARC rebels.
Pence’s week-long trip to Latin America, with the first stop in Colombia, includes visits to Argentina, Chile, and Panama.
In Chile, Pence will face questions over the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Chile’s U.S. ambassador Juan Gabriel Valdes told the VOA Spanish service. “With or without the U.S., we will continue working in the Asia Pacific to push for an agreement that results in clear rules for everyone,” Valdes said.
He added that his nation hopes the United States does not follow through on the threat to leave the Paris climate agreement because Chile believes that climate change is real.
U.S. trading partner Panama, home to the Panama Canal, established diplomatic ties with China in June, and Pence’s upcoming visit comes against the backdrop of a growing Chinese trade role in the region.