New sanctions on four Venezuelan governors and $56 million in new aid for Venezuela’s neighbours were announced by US Vice President Mike Pence after joining Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido at a Lima Group meeting in Colombia on Monday, February 25th.
US Vice President Mike Pence said he was asked by President Donald Trump to attend the meeting of the multilateral body of nations that was formed in August 2017 after a declaration in Lima, Peru, that called for a peaceful resolution to the Venezuelan crisis. The group of 15 Latin American nations, plus Canada, officially added Guaido as Venezuela’s representative on Monday.
"We have reaffirmed again and again our commitment to a democratic transition (of government) and the restoration of constitutional order in Venezuela," said Colombia's Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo.
In a speech to the media, Mr Pence declared “We are with you 100%,” adding “we will keep standing with you until democracy and your libertad (freedom) are restored”.
Pence declared that the new sanctions targeted four governors of Venezuela for "endemic corruption" and "blocking the delivery of critical humanitarian aid," according to a statement by the Treasury Department. In addition, another $56 million will be sent by the US to Venezuela’s neighbours to help them cope with the influx of migrants fleeing Venezuela's crisis, raising the total amount of funding to support the region’s humanitarian crisis to $139 million.
“We are going to show the world and Maduro that the United States stands with the people of Venezuela and that the United States stands with Guaido," an American official told reporters, who spoke on condition of anonymity in Bogota, according to NBC news.
Venezuela has been wracked by a humanitarian crisis following years of recession and hyperinflation. One out of ten Venezuelan citizens have fled the country in the past four years, and millions are believed to be suffering from shortages of basic necessities such as food and medicine.
According to Mr Guaido, 300,000 people face death if aid supplies are not brought in urgently but Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has refused external support by arguing that external aid would cover up a US invasion.
"In the Lima Group we're fighting to find a peaceful solution," said Peru's Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo de Zela, according to AFP.
De Zela also criticised Maduro's government for "the use of force and massive human rights violations" against those trying to bring in aid at the weekend. He described the use of force as "unacceptable. It's not the solution to what's happening in Venezuela."
The meeting comes one day after a Venezuelan border standoff pressed by Mr Guiado failed to push a caravan of aid trucks through the blockade set up by the Venezuelan military under orders of President Maduro. Instead of symbolising a collapse in Mr Maduro’s authority, the military fended off protestors and just one aid truck made it through.
The New York Times described the event as a major setback for Mr Guaido, stating that Mr Maduro had “easily fended off” the challenge.
Four members of the Lima Group did not attend the meeting, including Mexico, whose President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador voiced support for the Maduro government in recent months. Costa Rica, Guyana and Saint Lucia were also not present and have previously abstained from several of the group's tougher positions towards Maduro's regime.
So far, Mr Guiado has been recognised as interim president by the US and 50 other governments, citing Mr Maduro’s re-election in May 2018 that was widely considered undemocratic.