The U.S. will impose even more sanctions on Venezuela after recognizing the rival of socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro in January, Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday at Rice University in Houston, Texas.
The U.S. is targeting 34 vessels owned or operated by the nation’s state-run oil firm PDVSA and two companies that transport Venezuelan crude oil to Cuba, Pence said.
“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, but freedom has the momentum … Nicolas Maduro must go,” Pence said. U.S. President Donald Trump shunned Maduro and recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido in January, as did other countries, including Brazil and Canada.
“Thousands of Venezuelan children are starving at this very hour,” Pence later added. He also was heavy-handed in his criticism of Cuba.
“Cuba’s leaders are the real imperialists in the western hemisphere. The truth has to be told. … Cuba’s influence has driven Venezuela’s failure,” Pence said.
U.S. sanctions already in place to pressure Maduro include those on BANDES, the country’s national development bank exploited by Maduro’s “inner-circle,” and on Minhervin, its state-owned gold-mining company. Pence said Friday the U.S. is considering additional sanctions on Venezuela’s financial sector.
Members of the military still loyal to Maduro have blocked shipments of aid into the country, and Maduro and his subordinates in March blamed the country’s widespread power outages on sabotage, cyberattacks and even Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Pence and Trump met with Guaido’s wife Fabiana Rosales in the White House March 27.
“I said to her then we know that the Venezuelan people will never be intimidated and neither will we. She’s a remarkable young woman standing beside her courageous husband,” Pence said Friday.
Pence will speak to the United Nations Security Council about Venezuela next week.
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