Merida, February 25, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US Vice President Mike Pence announced sanctions against four Venezuelan governors from the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) this Monday, in a much anticipated speech before the Lima Group in Bogota, Colombia.
The four sanctioned officials are Vargas Governor Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, Carabobo Governor Rafael Lacava, Zulia Governor Omar Prieto, and Apure Governor Ramon Carrizales, who were elected in October 2017. All four states are either border provinces or house important sea ports.
No further details on the sanctions were announced, but past measures have included the freezing of personal US-based assets and travel bans. Pence also promised further sanctions “in the coming days.”
Speaking on behalf of US President Donald Trump, whom he described as “a great champion of freedom and liberty in Venezuela and across this hemisphere,” Pence declared that there would be “no turning back” until democracy is “restored” in Venezuela. He went on to assert that “socialism is dying.”
The US vice president’s speech comes on the heels of a failed effort by self-proclaimed “Interim President” Juan Guaido to force a shipment of US-supplied aid across the Venezuelan border despite pointed criticisms from the International Red Cross and United Nations over the “politicization” of humanitarian assistance.
In his address, Pence reiterated Trump’s threat that “all options are on the table” during his speech without offering further details regarding a possible military action. Guaido, who was also present at Monday’s meeting, had previously announced Saturday his “decision to formally appeal to the international community that we should be open to all options to achieve the liberation of the fatherland.”
Los acontecimientos de hoy me obligan a tomar una decisión: plantear a la Comunidad Internacional de manera formal que debemos tener abiertas todas las opciones para lograr la liberación de esta Patria que lucha y seguirá luchando.
¡La esperanza nació para no morir, Venezuela!
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 24, 2019
The Lima Group – which is comprised of thirteen Latin American countries plus Canada – did not, however, welcome the calls for military intervention in Venezuela.
In a statement released following the meeting, the Group reiterated its “conviction that the transition to democracy should be carried out peacefully by the Venezuelans and in the context of the constitution and international law (...) without the use of force.”
Their stance was also supported by the European Union Monday, which declared that the global community “must avoid a military intervention” in Venezuela.
In addition to threats of military action, Pence indicated that Washington will be supplying regional allies with US $56 million in financial assistance to reportedly attend to Venezuelan migrants. It is expected that the sum will be largely shared between Colombia and Brazil.
Pence urged Lima Group members to follow the US lead in applying travel restrictions on Maduro government officials and to “immediately” freeze Venezuelan oil assets abroad so as to hand them over to Juan Guaido..
Regarding the “humanitarian assistance,” Pence asserted that his team will be attempting to push the aid into Venezuela again, explaining that they are evaluating new border crossings without offering dates or further details.
Guaido, who has defied a court-ordered travel ban himself to attend the Lima Group summit and risks being arrested should he return to Venezuela, also spoke at the gathering, claiming that the events of last Saturday were a moral victory despite the failure to force the aid in. At least five people were killed in Saturday’s border skirmishes.
Despite few signs of fissures within the Venezuelan armed forces, both Guaido and Pence reiterated calls on military officers to oust Maduro, promising amnesty and stresing that there will be no “vindictive” persecutions. Pence claimed that the figure of Venezuelan soldiers who deserted on Saturday has now risen to “nearly 200.”
Colombian President Ivan Duque also spoke at the meeting, accusing Maduro of committing crimes against humanity. He also called for a “domino effect” in military desertions and for the tightening of international “fencing in” of Maduro, which he described as “irreversible.” Maduro broke relations with Colombia Saturday, in response to what he described as interventionist policies by Bogota.
In addition to Pence, Duque, and Guaido, the meeting in the San Carlos Palace was attended by the presidents of Guatemala and Panama, as well as a host of foreign ministers. Also present was the Colombian Ambassador to Washington, Francisco Santos, and Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno.
Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.