Vice President Pence plans to meet Monday with representatives of Latin American nations gathering in Colombia amid a possible showdown with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro over delivery of U.S. and international aid.
Pence’s office said he would “voice the United States’ unwavering support for interim President Juan Guaidó and highlight the Venezuelan people’s fight for democracy over dictatorship.”
The address to a diplomatic consortium known as the Lima Group comes as Guaidó has promised a weekend mobilization against Maduro and in support of delivery of food and medical supplies to Venezuelans facing severe shortages and hunger.
“On February 23, humanitarian aid will enter Venezuela one way or another,” Guaidó said earlier this month.
It is not clear where the situation might stand Monday, when Pence travels to Colombia, which borders Venezuela and has taken in some of the approximately 3 million people who have fled economic collapse in Venezuela.
Guaidó, the opposition leader whom the United States and about 50 other nations recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader, has said he will confront Maduro’s security forces if need be, making aid delivery a proxy contest between his backers and Maduro’s still formidable hold on Venezuela’s military and security apparatus.
Maduro won a reelection contest last year that was widely criticized as fraudulent. The current political crisis was triggered in January, when the opposition-led national congress declared Maduro illegitimate and elevated Guaidó.
Pence will try to “define concrete steps that support the Venezuelan people and a transition to democracy,” his office said in a statement Thursday.
“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, and freedom has the momentum. Juan Guaidó is the only legitimate leader of Venezuela, and it’s time for Nicolás Maduro to go,” Pence spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in the statement.
This trip will be Pence’s fifth to Latin America as vice president.
The United States pledged $20 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuela last month, but Maduro has blocked its entry, saying the aid is cover for a U.S. invasion.
President Trump addressed Venezuelan exiles Monday in Miami and repeated U.S. demands that the aid be allowed to flow. He also repeated that all options for a U.S. reaction remain on the table, although the United States has not said how any military action would unfold.
The Trump administration blames Maduro’s socialist government for Venezuela’s worst economic crisis. Inflation is out of control, and international monitors assess that 1 in 10 Venezuelans are undernourished.