Pence Tells Venezuelans That U.S. Backs Efforts to Oust Maduro

Pence Tells Venezuelans That U.S. Backs Efforts to Oust Maduro

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday declared the United States’ “unwavering support” for planned mass protests in Venezuela against President Nicolás Maduro, the most explicit backing yet by the Trump administration as opposition leaders try to unseat Mr. Maduro.

The declaration, the first in which Mr. Pence used a video to directly urge Venezuelans to take action, came after months of statements by senior Trump administration officials, including several strongly worded ones from the vice president, that said Mr. Maduro’s rule was illegitimate.

“We are with you,” Mr. Pence wrote on Twitter on Tuesday in both Spanish and English, adding, “We stand with you, and we will stay with you until Democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of Libertad.”

The post, which came as Venezuelan opposition leaders were calling for citizens to take to the streets on Wednesday, was accompanied by a video in which Mr. Pence said he and President Trump were united with them in their “call for freedom.”

“We encouraged the president today to follow through with what he’s already declared, which is that Maduro is illegitimate,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican. “The next logical step is to recognize the president of the National Assembly as the rightful president.”

Mr. Trump and other top American officials, including Mr. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have consistently used harsh terms to criticize Mr. Maduro, a leftist politician who has exercised authoritarian powers and guided his country into an economic collapse that has led millions of Venezuelans to leave for neighboring countries.

The New York Times reported in September that the Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious Venezuelan military officials to discuss overthrowing Mr. Maduro, though American officials eventually decided not to help the plotters.

“All options are on the table,” Mr. Trump told reporters in late September at the United Nations General Assembly meeting. “Every one. The strong ones, and the less-than-strong ones. Every option — and you know what I mean by strong.”

Mr. Maduro made a surprise visit to the General Assembly and railed against the United States in a 50-minute speech, calling Americans “imperialists.” He and Mr. Trump did not meet.

Beforehand, Mr. Trump had said that he was willing to meet with Mr. Maduro if the opportunity presented itself. “We’re going to take care of Venezuela,” he said.

Many citizens of Latin America recall a long history of the United States’ supporting coups in the region by right-wing military leaders who then quashed democratic processes and rule of law to maintain power for years and sometimes decades.

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