U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has been in Florida to meet Venezuelan opposition leaders, capping off his tour of Latin America last week where he sought support against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
The meeting with 15 emigre political figures took place at a Catholic Church in Doral, well known as an enclave for Venezuelans opposed to the successive Bolivarian administrations of late President Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro.
Three former Venezuelan mayors were in attendance, with two asking that further unilateral sanctions be imposed by the U.S. government.
A third former mayor, Ramon Muchacho, told Pence that aid from the E.U. and U.S. was needed as “there is no way to get out of (the crisis) by democratic means." Muchacho faces criminal charges in Venezuela for failing to dismantle opposition barricades in the affluent Caracas district of Chacao.
Pence, for his part, continued to repeat the White House position that the democratically-elected government in Caracas resembled a “dictatorship,” and that there was “more to come” in terms of sanctions.
Soon after visiting the house of worship, Pence also made his presence felt at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command, which is located in Doral as well.
Pence's recent trip to four Latin American countries with mostly right wing governments – Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama – was met with unanimous rejection of any plans for a military intervention in Venezuela.
His trip came on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump threatening Venezuela with possible military action after having proceeded with its Constituent Assembly election on July 30.
“We have many options for Venezuela and by the way, I’m not going to rule out a military option,” Trump told reporters earlier this month in apparently impromptu remarks. “A military operation and military option is certainly something that we could pursue.”
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said that Trump’s threat was an “act of craziness” and “extremism.”
“With this extremist elite that’s in charge in the United States, who knows what will happen to the world?” Padrino asked.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro attempted to initiate dialogue with Washington by requesting a phone call with Trump. The White House said in a statement, however, that it rejected the request.
“President Trump will gladly speak with the leader of Venezuela as soon as democracy is restored in that country,” it said.