U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met Monday with refugees who fled the chaos in Venezuela for the safety of a church in Cartagena, Colombia.

“The president ( Trump ) sent me here with a message of compassion for those families that are fleeing Venezuela,” Pence told reporters. “We are with them. We stand with them to restore democracy in Venezuela.”

With store shelves empty and staples hard to find, many Venezuelans cross into Brazil and Colombia to buy food. Some do not return.

US ‘will not stand by’

Pence repeated what he told Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos — that the United States “will not stand by while Venezuela collapses into dictatorship. We will not stand by while Venezuela crumbles.”

Pence did not talk about Trump’s threat to use military force to help restore democracy to Venezuela. But he did say “a failed state in Venezuela threatens the security and prosperity of an entire hemisphere and the people of the United States of America.”

Santos has told Pence that no Latin America country would accept any form of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela and that it should never even be considered.

Recalling more than a century of U.S. military action throughout the Americas, Santos said no Latin leader wants “that phantom” to reappear.

​Venezuela plans military exercises

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered military exercises later this month in reaction to Trump’s threat, even if U.S. military intervention is highly unlikely.

Maduro also offered to speak to Trump by telephone to tell the U.S. president that “everything they tell you about Venezuela is a lie and they’re throwing you into a ditch.”

He called Pence’s visit a sign of imperialist desperation.

Maduro has blamed Venezuela’s economic calamity, violence, and political unrest on the United States and its supports among the opposition, believing the U.S. wants to get its hands on Venezuelan oil.

Pence will be in Argentina Tuesday for talks with President Mauricio Macri, and will later stop in Chile and Panama.

The visits will not only focus on marshaling support for Venezuelan democracy, but trade and bipartisan ties.


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