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Pence: Maduro "danced" while "henchmen" murdered civilians and burned food and medicine

Pence announces new sanctions on Maduro

Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. will move to impose a new round of sanctions on members of the Maduro regime amid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

On Saturday, Venezuela's National Guard fired tear gas on residents at a bridge between Venezuela and Colombia, as the opposition party began its high-risk plan to deliver humanitarian aid to the region, despite objections from embattled President Nicolás Maduro.

"As the world watched, the tyrant in Caracas (Maduro) danced as his henchmen murdered civilians and burned truckloads of food and medicine destined for the people of Venezuela," Pence said Monday in Bogota.

While speaking at the annual meeting of leaders of the Lima Group, a coalition of more than a dozen nations mostly from Latin America, Pence announced that effective Monday, the U.S. would impose sanctions on regime officials — including three border-state governors implicated in last weekend's violence and a member of Maduro's inner circle.

"These men worked to block aid for people in need and suppress peaceful protests – and their actions will not go unpunished," said Pence. According to White House, those officials include Omar Jose Prieto Fernandez, Ramon Alonso Carrizales Rengifo, Jorge Luis García Carneiro, and Rafael Alejandro Lacava Evangelista.

Pence added, "In the days ahead, the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime's corrupt financial networks. We will find every last dollar they have stolen and return that money to the Venezuelan people. As we continue to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the Maduro regime, we hope for a peaceful transition to democracy, but as President Trump has made clear, all options are on the table."  

The vice president said the U.S. would be willing to grant sanctions relief, should Venezuela "take up the banner of democracy." He called on member nations of the Lima Group to not be "bystanders in Venezuela's struggle for freedom."

Pence also said the U.S. would continue to increase its efforts to provide additional aid to the Venezuelan people, including an additional $56 million to support partners in the region. He said that blocking the aid on the Colombian-Venezuelan border is "utterly unconscionable," calling it the "desperate act of a tyrant who's impoverished his nation through oppression and socialism, clinging to power with violence and intimidation."

Earlier, Pence met with Venezuela's interim President Juan Guaidó to express "resolute" U.S. support for Guaidó's leadership.  Pence spoke alongside Guaidó and the President of Colombia Iván Duque Márquez during their trilateral meeting.

Colombia Venezuela Political Crisis
Venezuela's self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, Colombia's President Ivan Duque and Vice President Mike Pence, pose for a photo after a meeting of the Lima Group concerning Venezuela at the Foreign Ministry in Bogota, Colombia, Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.  AP

Pence said Mr. Trump sent him to Colombia "to stand with you and to stand with our friends and our allies in Venezuela." He called it a "great privilege" to be able to meet with the interim president, adding, "we are with you 100 percent."

The U.S. is "proud to recognize you as the legitimate president of Venezuela," Pence said. Pence urged the international body on Monday to join the U.S. and more than 50 other countries who have already recognized Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, after he secured the backing of opposition parties in the country's National Assembly.

Pence also delivered remarks in Spanish, telling the largely Latin American crowd, "Estamos con ustedes. We are with you. 100 percent. We stand with you, and along with all the nations gathered here today, we will keep standing with you until democracy and libertad are restored."

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