Vice President Mike Pence has issued a message to Venezuelans, condemning their “dictator” leader Nicolas Maduro and declaring official U.S. support for the country's legislature and its opposition leader, Juan Guaido.
“On behalf of President Donald Trump and all the American people, let me express the unwavering support of the United States as you, the people of Venezuela, raise your voices in a call for freedom,” Pence said in a recorded video message. “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power. He has never won the presidency in a free and fair election, and has maintained his grip on power by imprisoning anyone who dares to oppose him.”
Maduro was sworn into another term as Venezuelan president this month, although his government is considered largely “illegitimate” by much of the international community, who deem the elections held last year to be a sham.
Pence instead declared U.S backing for National Assembly leader Guaido, who he called the “last vestige of democracy.”
“As you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela: estamos con ustdes,” Pence continued in the message, peppered with Spanish phrases. “We are with you, we stand with you, and we will stay with you until democracy is restored and you reclaim your birthright of libertad.”
Since 2015, Venezuela has been gripped by a mass shortage in medicine, food and bewildering hyperinflation, which has exceeded one million percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, rendering the currency - the Bolivar - essentially worthless. Almost four million people are estimated to fled Venezuela in desperation, creating a mass migration crisis across much of Latin America.
The increasingly authoritarian Nicolas Maduro-led government, continuing the policies of Hugo Chavez, denies the existence of a humanitarian catastrophe, instead pointing fingers at everything from Venezuela’s positioning to the sun, to opposition movements and the United States for infringing on their economic rights.