Mike Pence says Venezuelan President ‘must go’

Washington: Vice President of the United States Mike Pence on Friday said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “must go”, owing to the “suffering he has brought” to the people of that country.

“Make no mistake about it: The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, but freedom has the momentum. Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolás Maduro must go,” Pence said, according to a statement issued by the White House.

The remarks by Pence came during his visit to Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston, Texas, home to a large Venezuelan immigrant community, as well as the corporate headquarters of CITGO, a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run oil giant PDVSA.

Venezuelan Opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself as the President on January 23 and was immediately supported by the United States along with 50 other countries, who recognised him as the official interim President of the Latin American nation.

“He and his duly-elected government and the National Assembly have our full support because the American people support the Constitution of Venezuela, we support the rule of law, and we recognize that Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship is destroying that once great and prosperous nation,” Pence said in reference to Guaido.

“When the dictator came to power, six long years ago, he promised to deliver socialism. And sadly for the people of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro did just that,” Pence added.

Pence, in his speech, further noted that nine out of 10 people live in poverty.

“As I just heard from families a few short moments ago, thousands of Venezuelan children are starving at this very hour, and thousands of babies in hospitals across Venezuela are dying due to lack of basic medical care and treatment,” Pence said.

The Vice President also blamed Maduro for blocking hundreds of tons of food and aid from reaching the impoverished people of Venezuela.

“The United States has also been working to cut off money from Maduro’s corrupt regime. We’re imposing sanctions on more than 150 government officials and organizations that are loyal to the dictator in Caracas,” Pence noted.

Venezuela has seen a political divide between supporters of Guaido and embattled President Maduro, who was elected to power following elections. However, he has refused to step down from his post, with the military largely remaining loyal to him despite calls by the US to side with Guaido.

The South American nation continues to be plagued by a humanitarian crisis, with hyperinflation, blackouts, water, and medicine shortage, and sanctions by the US further crippling the economy.