Venezuela crisis dominates dialogue during VP Pence’s trip to Colombia

Latin America

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence listens to Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos during a joint press conference at the presidential guesthouse in Cartagena, Colombia, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Cartagena is the first stop of Pence’s weeklong trip to Latin America, that will also take him to Argentina, Chile and Panama. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara).

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Colombia for the first stop on his six-day trip to Latin America. The visit takes place amid growing tensions with Venezuela. 

CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports from Bogota.

Vice President Pence met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena, Sunday. It’s the vice  president’s first stop on a four-nation tour in South and Central America.

The White House is trying to build regional support against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to consolidate power. U.S. President Donald Trump said he would consider military intervention to end the violence in Venezuela. But on Sunday, Pence toned down the president’s message.

“As President Trump said just a few days ago, we have many options for Venezuela. But the president also remains confident that working with all of our allies across Latin America, we can achieve a peaceable solution to the crisis facing the Venezuelan people. Working with free nations across this hemisphere, the United States will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power-until democracy is restored in Venezuela,” Vice President Pence said.

The military option is one that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he won’t consider.

“Neither in Colombia, nor in Latin America, from south of the Rio Grande to Patagonia, could anyone agree (with intervention). The Americas are peaceful. Let’s keep it that way,” he said.

While differences in how to respond to Venezuela’s meltdown could create friction during Pence’s Latin America tour, Santos also drew attention to growing ties between the U.S. and Colombia.

During a private meeting, the two leaders discussed a range of issues, including cooperation on anti-drug operations and the implementation of Colombia’s peace accord.

“The commercial and business relationship between our two countries is stronger than ever. The free trade agreement has brought us benefits that we can take more advantage of,” President Santos said.

Argentina, Chile and Panama are also on Pence’s itinerary. He won’t find any of those nations any more receptive to the idea of military intervention in Venezuela. Each has already rejected that option.