US Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared acting president Juan Guaido, take part in a meeting with Foreign Ministers of the Lima Group at Colombia's Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bogota, on February 25, 2019. US Vice President Mike Pence passed on a message from Donald Trump to Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido on Monday, telling him "we are with you 100 percent." Pence and Guaido met in Colombia's capital during a meeting of regional allies to discuss their next move in response to the crisis in Venezuela.
AFP/Diana Sanchez
Venezuela's Guaido and Pence agree to tighten noose on Maduro
Hector Velasco (Agence France-Presse) - February 26, 2019 - 9:37am

BOGOTA, Colombia — US Vice President Mike Pence and Venezuela opposition leader Juan Guaido agreed on a strategy to tighten the noose around President Nicolas Maduro following a meeting with regional allies in Colombia on Monday.

"We hope for a peaceful transition to democracy but President Trump has made it clear: all options are on the table," said Pence, who passed on Trump's "100 percent" support to Guaido.

The meeting came after four people were killed and hundreds injured as Guaido supporters clashed with Venezuelan security forces on the borders with Colombia and Brazil over the weekend in a thwarted bid to bring in humanitarian aid.

The Lima Group -- made up of Latin American countries and Canada -- met in Bogota and said it would ask the International Criminal Court to declare "the violence of Maduro's criminal regime against the civilian population and the negation of access to international aide as a crime against humanity."

Guaido warned that "indulging" Maduro "would be a threat to all of America," while Colombia President Ivan Duque called for "more powerful and effective" pressure on the socialist leader.

However, the Lima Group rejected the use of force to achieve a democratic transition.

The US requested an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council and imposed new sanctions on the governors of four Venezuelan states aligned with Maduro for impeding aid shipments.

Guaido, the 35-year-old leader of Venezuela's National Assembly, declared himself acting president in January after the opposition-controlled legislature concluded that Maduro was fraudulently re-elected.

Some 50 countries recognize him as Venezuela's legitimate interim president.

'Victory'

Despite the defection of more than 150 soldiers to Guaido's side, Maduro's military blockade at Venezuela's borders held firm and prevented the aid from entering.

Maduro's right-hand man Diosdado Cabello proclaimed "victory" on Sunday.

"Not a single one of those trucks with aid got through," Cabello said at a rally in the border town of Tachira.

Humanitarian aid has become the focal point in Guaido's challenge to Maduro's authority.

Venezuela is suffering a humanitarian crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine -- problems exacerbated by hyperinflation, which has rendered salaries and savings worthless.

Guaido says 300,000 people face death if aid supplies are not urgently brought in, but Maduro claims it is a smokescreen to cover a US invasion.

Guaido accused Maduro's government of turning the country into "the sanctuary of terrorists."

"The reality in Venezuela is we have a regime that is against its people," he said on Sunday.

"Today, we need to find a way to solve this crisis."

Having defied a government travel ban to got to Colombia on Friday, Guaido said he would return home "this week," with the Lima Group warning he faced "serious and credible threats" from the regime.

At the opening of the Lima Group meeting, Colombia's Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said the representatives were "trying hard to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor."

Pence announced $56 million in funds for countries hosting Venezuelan migrants.

The United Nations says 2.7 million Venezuelans have fled the country since 2015.

Pence also invited Lima Group members to transfer assets of Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA to Guaido to keep them away from "Maduro's inner circle."

Eurasia Group analyst Risa Grais-Targow said US sanctions "will make it difficult for President Nicolas Maduro to retain power; however, an eventual transition is contingent on both continued opposition unity and viable off-ramps for regime insiders."

The Lima Group of 14 nations is not united in its approach to the Venezuela crisis and Mexico, Costa Rica, Guyana and Saint Lucia skipped the meeting.

But Guaido rallied those present, saying: "It's important to recover democracy in Venezuela because those usurping power today are a threat to the continent's stability."

'No consensus'

Bolivia's President Evo Morales, a Maduro ally, called on the Lima Group to "seek a solution through dialogue."

"In the Lima Group, the consensus is that Maduro must be removed, but there is no consensus on how to do that," political scientist Laura Gil told AFP.

Maduro seems to have won this round in the power struggle, but on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was confident that "Maduro's days are numbered."

More than 300 people were injured during the clashes between security forces and protesters at crossings on the Colombian and Brazilian borders.

A 14-year-old boy was among those killed Saturday near the Brazilian border.

NGO Foro Penal said on Monday that 58 people had suffered gunshot wounds.

The European Union on Sunday condemned the government's use of violence and armed civilians to block the aid entry, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "shocked and saddened" by the civilian deaths.

There were sporadic clashes between hooded protesters and police, supported by armed civilian "colectivos" on Sunday on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Scores of Venezuelans who managed to slip across the border to get aid were trapped there as Venezuelan authorities closed it.

JUAN GUIADO MIKE PENCE NICOLAS MADURO UNITED STATES VENEZUELA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 12, 2019 - 9:30am

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accuses Colombia of being behind an "attack" with an explosive-laden drone he said targeted him on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).

Speaking shortly after state television showed him cut off mid-speech in front of a Caracas military parade by a bang, Maduro says a "flying object exploded in front of me" and blamed the incident on Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos.

"It was an attack to kill me, they tried to assassinate me today," Maduro says in a state broadcast. "I have no doubt that the name Juan Manuel Santos is behind this attack." — AFP

October 12, 2019 - 9:30am

Stateless baby Wilbelys officially "doesn't exist," Arianna is a six-year-old who's moved home seven times, Jazmin is missing school -- the children of the Venezuelan exodus are trading one ordeal for another in neighboring Colombia.

Migrants of all ages and social status are fleeing Venezuela's crippling economic crisis, unable to cope with hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods and medicines.

Well over a million have ended up in neighboring Colombia, among them nearly 200,000 children. In reality, the figure is higher, migration officers say, because many entered the country illegally.

In other circumstances, living abroad could be any child's dream. But this generation is suffering "an immense grieving," according to Sandra Perdomo, director of the Zion foundation which provides assistance to at-risk children. -- Agence France-Presse

September 26, 2019 - 12:37pm

US President Donald Trump says that Venezuela was suffering "a tragedy of historic proportions" as he pledged to do everything in his power to isolate Nicolas Maduro's regime.

Trump tells around two dozen Latin American leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that socialism had "destroyed" oil-rich Venezuela, but that the country's people "will be free."

"Today Venezuelans are starving and they're dying from lack of medicine. We will stand with the Venezuelan people every single day," he says, adding that socialism had "destroyed" the South American country. — AFP

September 26, 2019 - 8:49am

The right-hand man of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is in North Korea leading a "high-level delegation", state media in the North said Thursday, as both nations grapple with economic pressures from international sanctions.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "received a personal letter and gift" from Maduro, which was delivered by Diosdado Cabello, KCNA reports.

Cabello is president of Venezuela's Constituent Assembly which effectively acts as a regime rubber stamp. He is considered the second most powerful person in Venezuela after Maduro.

The official Korean Central News Agency says Cabello delivered the gift on Wednesday during his meeting with Choe Ryong Hae, who is considered one of Kim's right-hand men and heads the North's rubber-stamp parliament.

"The willingness to make efforts to expand and develop the bilateral friendship in all fields was expressed at the talks that were held in a friendly atmosphere," KCNA reports.

— Agence France-Presse

September 25, 2019 - 5:59pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin tells Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro he supported talks between the embattled leader and the opposition, warning that refusing dialogue could further threaten the crisis-stricken country.

Welcoming the leftist leader at the Kremlin, Putin reiterates support for Maduro's regime but also indicates the Venezuelan president should be open to dialogue with his critics.

"No doubt we support the dialogue that you, Mr President, and your government are having with the opposition forces," Putin says. — AFP

September 19, 2019 - 7:38am

Venezuela's socialist government calls on the United States to restore diplomatic ties with Caracas after it opened talks with fringe opposition parties.

Venezuela broke off relations with the United States after Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president on January 23.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez tells reporters in Caracas that it made sense for the US "to restore diplomatic contacts and dialogue with the government" of President Nicolas Maduro. — AFP

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