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'I Told You We Would Be With You,' Vice President Mike Pence Tells Venezuelans In South Florida

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of Venezuelan Americans that the administration stands behind them in their fight for freedom.

On Friday, Pence attended a roundtable discussion on the crisis in Venezuela in South Florida.

Vice President Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence touched down in Air Force Two just before 11:30 a.m. They were met on the tarmac by Republicans Senator Rick Scott, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

They then traveled to the Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center in Doral where a roundtable listening session was held. The lawmakers heard from Venezuelan exiles and community leaders including families, political prisoners and former elected officials who were forced to flee their country due to political persecution.

"There is tremendous unity and unity of purpose for the goal and that is a free and fair, genuine, internationally supervised election in Venezuela without fraud, without intimidation, that has to happen," said Diaz-Balart.

After the roundtable, Pence and the other lawmakers made public remarks in support of the Venezuelan people and opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

"In Venezuela, there's only one thing that is necessary, one simple thing, the absolute, total, freedom of the Venezuelan people," said Diaz-Balart. "From the first day this President, this Vice President, this administration, decided to not stand with the oppressors of the people of Venezuela. It decided to stand with the people of Venezuela."

Senator Rick Scott said you only have to look at the numbers to see that the regime of Nicolas Maduro is failing.

"Nine of ten households in Venezuela don't have enough money to buy food, that's socialism. The average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds in 2017, that's socialism. Eighty percent of the children under five are in some state of malnutrition, that's despicable," he said.

Senator Marco Rubio said to affect real change in Venezuela, the international community should get involved.

"Those countries and those businesses helping Nicolas Maduro continue to steal the gold in the reserves of that country, no this you are subject to sanctions. The country's and the companies, whether its the UAE or Turkey and the companies under your auspices, think about it very carefully. The law is clear, you will face severe sanctions if you allow Nicolas Maduro to continue to steal the gold that doesn't belong to him but to the people of that great country," said Rubio. "To all the international partners throughout Europe that want to be helpful, we thank you."

Pence told the gathering that President Trump supported their cause for a free Venezuela.

"Allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine and a great champion of liberty in Venezuela and all across this hemisphere of freedom. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America - President Donald Trump," he said. "Not long ago I came here to this very city to deliver a message to you. I told you that we would be with you. That America would stand for a free Venezuela. Today the United States is proud to stand with the Venezuelan people and I believe the day is coming when Venezuela will be free once more. When Venezuela reclaims its Libertad," said Pence.

"As President Trump said just last week, the fight for freedom has begun," he added.

Pence said the administration supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó who declared himself the interim president of Venezuela.

"Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. Nicolas Maduro must go. Just three weeks ago the National Assembly, the only legitimate elected body in Venezuela, declared that they no longer recognized the Maduro regime. The National Assembly invoked the Constitution and recognized a new leader. A man who speaks for the people of Venezuela and cherishes their rights. Last week as hundreds of thousands of citizens marched through the streets in the name of freedom, that leader stood before his country and took an oath before Almighty God. And the United States of America was proud to be the first nation on Earth to recognize the only legitimate president of Venezuela - President Juan Guaidó."

Pence added that the US stands ready to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Venezuela.

The Vice President said he spoke to Guaidó the night before he took the oath.

"I marveled at his calm, his courage, and his faith. Just two days ago President Trump spoke to President Guaidó and congratulated him on his historic assumption of the presidency of Venezuela," he said. "He reinforced our strong support for his leadership and for Venezuela's fight to regain its freedom. The United States has made it clear, the safety and security of President Guaidó and his family are of great importance to the American people."

Despite the deteriorating conditions in her homeland, Janeth Mendez was encouraged that the Vice President came to Miami.

"I have lived in Miami for 16 years. My parents are in Venezuela. I'm very happy he is visiting our church," she sais.

Three million people have fled Venezuela but there is hope that Guaidó can be the instrument of lasting change.

"People want change and change is happening," said Daniel Naim. "So we need the support of not only the US but every single country. Everything started here and I eager to see what the Vice President is going to say about what's coming next."

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