‘You Shouldn’t Be Here’: U.S. Pushes U.N. to Pull Venezuela Envoy’s Credentials
UNITED NATIONS — Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday urged the United Nations to revoke the credentials of Venezuela’s ambassador to the world body, portraying him as a loyalist to the country’s disputed president, Nicolás Maduro, and to a government that has allowed crime, violence and starvation to rise.
In a 20-minute speech to the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Pence called for a formal recognition of Juan Guaidó as the rightful leader of Venezuela, which he called “a failed state — and as history teaches, failed states know no boundaries.”
Mr. Pence turned to the Venezuelan ambassador, Samuel Moncada Acosta, telling him “you shouldn’t be here.”
“You should return to Venezuela and tell Nicolás Maduro that his time is up,” Mr. Pence said. “It’s time for him to go.”
The Council meeting addressed the situation in Venezuela, which officials and experts are increasingly describing as a humanitarian crisis that has led an estimated 3.5 million citizens to flee the country.
Instead of offering temporary asylum to Venezuelans, the Trump administration has called for Mr. Maduro’s ouster to relieve a country rattled by skyrocketing inflation, widespread blackouts and a growing public health crisis. As a replacement, the United States is forcefully supporting Mr. Guaidó, the National Assembly politician whom the administration recognizes as the rightful interim president.
On Wednesday, Mr. Pence also accused China and Russia of meddling in efforts to remove Mr. Maduro. While “Russia and China continue to obstruct at the Security Council,” he said, “rogue states like Iran and Cuba are doing all they can to prop up the Maduro regime.”
Global rivalries have hindered the ability of the United Nations to address the crisis, despite intensifying warnings that the situation is getting worse. In February, the United States and Russia introduced dueling resolutions on Venezuela at the Security Council; the American proposal called for free and fair elections and the Russian plan backed Mr. Maduro’s government. Both failed.
Two weeks ago, President Trump warned Russia to “get out of” Venezuela after two of Moscow’s military planes landed in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, to unload supplies and military personnel. But the American president has done little else to publicly engage as the crisis continues.
That role has fallen to Mr. Pence. But on Wednesday, he did not give a firm answer when asked by a reporter on where the United States would draw a line on Russia’s involvement. He also did not give a timeline when asked if the possibility of American military intervention, an option long touted by administration officials, was drawing closer as conditions in Venezuela worsened.
Instead, the Trump administration has tried to choke off Mr. Maduro’s economic resources. Last week, it announced a round of sanctions targeting oil shipments between Venezuela and Cuba, the latest in a string of initiatives meant to curb Caracas’s ability to do business. Hundreds of Mr. Maduro’s associates have had their visas revoked in recent weeks.
In briefings held before Mr. Pence arrived to speak, United Nations officials warned of a situation that has only grown more dire as unrest continues and said that offering relief to Venezuelan citizens should not be a political issue.
Mark Lowcock, an under secretary for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council that a recent draft overview of the situation by the United Nations indicated that some 1.9 million people require nutritional assistance because of worsening food availability, including 1.3 million children under five years old. Additionally, Mr. Lowcock said, tuberculosis, diphtheria, measles, malaria and other preventable diseases have resurfaced in Venezuela.
Food shortages also remain a main factor in driving people out of the country: Surveys show that 80 percent of Venezuelan households struggle with finding enough food, United Nations officials said.
“In Venezuela, there is a need to separate political and humanitarian objectives,” Mr. Lowcock said. “Humanitarian assistance must be delivered on the basis of need alone.”
The number of people expected to leave Venezuela may surpass 5 million by the year’s end, said Eduardo Stein, a special United Nations envoy for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
Citing a worsening public health crisis exacerbated by constant blackouts, Kathleen Page, a doctor and professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, urged the Security Council to formally declare a humanitarian crisis and address it in a “neutral, independent and impartial” way.
On Tuesday, Mr. Maduro said that he had met with members of the Red Cross to finalize plans for the arrival of aid to Venezuela. His government and the opposition reached a deal to organize a large-scale relief effort late last month.
“We reiterated our disposition to establish cooperation mechanisms for international aid and assistance,” Mr. Maduro wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
The United States still does not have a permanent representative to the United Nations, a fact that reporters pointed out to Mr. Pence as he fielded questions over whether the Security Council would support his demand to revoke the Venezuelan ambassador’s credentials.
Mr. Pence said he felt that “momentum is on the side of freedom.”