US Promises Aid for Venezuelan Refugees—Threatens More Sanctions Against Maduro Loyalists

The United States’ quest to oust Venezuela’s president continues, and in a speech, Vice President Mike Pence used both the threat of more sanctions and the promise of humanitarian aid.

Following months of increased sanctions against Venezuela, the Trump administration announced that it is now planning to send a hospital ship to the region for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid to Venezuelan refugees.

I’m announcing that at President Trump’s direction the United States Navy will deploy the USNS Comfort to the Caribbean, Central America and South America this June,” Vice President Mike Pence said.

He claimed that the ship will carry out a five-month humanitarian mission, in which U.S. military and medical personnel will work with their counterparts to provide medical assistance to the estimated 3 million refugees who have fled from Venezuela in recent years.

While Pence did not address the impact that around 150 U.S. sanctions on officials and businesses in Venezuela have had on the country’s already struggling economy, he did threaten to increase the measures if the U.S. does not see increased support for Guaido. He noted that the U.S. has lifted sanctions on one general who broke ranks from the government of President Nicolas Maduro. And they hope it will encourage others to do the same. 

Pence also said they are prepared to sanction all 25 members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court if they do not stop acting as what he called “political tools” for Maduro. While his speech carried the promise of humanitarian aid and relief for those who support the opposition, Pence made it clear that the U.S. still intends to overthrow Maduro.

The United States of America will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition of democracy in Venezuela,” Pence said. “But to those who continue to oppress the good people of Venezuela, know this: all options are on the table.”

While he remains under the threat of arrest following his failed attempt to spark a military uprising last week, opposition leader Juan Guaido was all smiles, as he attended a meeting of the National Assembly in Caracas on Tuesday. Opposition members discussed a proposal for Venezuela to return to a regional defense agreement from the Cold War era that would give other nations, like the US, political cover to increase their involvement in Venezuela.

Also seeking more influence in the country, the International Contact Group on Venezuela has announced that it plans to send representatives to Caracas in the coming days to present a “peaceful and democratic solution.”

It is self-evident inside the country that the only way forward, the only way to unblock a stalemate in which the country clearly is, is to find a democratic, peaceful, political way forward that can be inclusive and that can respect the will of the Venezuelan people,” said European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini.

While the U.S. has failed to convince Venezuela’s military to turn on Maduro, their strategy of leveraging sanctions against officials who follow orders is sending its own message, as U.S. officials continue to claim that the possibility of military action is on the table.

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Rachel Blevins is a journalist who aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives.

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