Venezuelan Crisis Takes Center Stage at Washington Conference on the Americas

Leaders of the hemisphere reiterated their support for Interim President Juan Guaidó and the need for regime change for stability in the region.
Nathalie Gouillou/Diálogo | 14 May 2019

Venezuelans demonstrate against President Nicolás Maduro as representatives of more than a dozen European and Latin American countries hold their III Meeting of the International Contact Group for Venezuela, in San Jose, on May 6, 2019. (Photo: Arnoldo Robert/AFP)

U.S. senior officials and leaders of the Western Hemisphere gathered May 7 at the 49th Washington Conference on the Americas at the U.S. State Department to focus on major policies affecting the region under the theme “Disruption and Transformation in the Americas.” The Venezuelan crisis took center stage with many speakers addressing the plight of Venezuelans and the urgent need for a transition to democracy.

“Nicolás Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolás Maduro must go”, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said, describing the Venezuelan crisis as a battle between totalitarianism and democracy.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, chairman of the U.S. Senate Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, echoed Pence’s remarks and dismissed the notion that supporters of the illegitimate president are ideologues.

“They don’t stick with Maduro because they’re loyal to him or loyal to some ideology,” Rubio said. “They stick with him because he allows them to keep money, keep making that money, and protects their status.”

Venezuelan opposition supporters participate in a candlelight vigil and Catholic mass in remembrance of the victims during the demonstrations of April 30 and May 1. Caracas, Venezuela. May 5th, 2019. (Photo: Hugo Passarello Luna / Hans Lucas)

Vice President of Colombia Marta Lucia Ramírez addressed Colombia’s concerns and reiterated her country’s support for Interim President Juan Guaidó. Ramírez also pointed to security issues surrounding the Maduro regime, including its protection and cooperation with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or FARC in Spanish), the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional or ELN in Spanish), and Islamic extremist groups.

“What is clear for us is that they are not an elected government. They didn’t take power through democracy; they took power through force,” Ramírez said during a bilateral meeting with U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan at the Pentagon, also on May 7. “This is an issue of security and it’s an issue also of stability, an issue of the future — the future of our democracy, of our values.” 

In an effort to take control of the government, Guaidó urged people to demonstrate on April 30, calling for military commanders to join him. U.S. President Donald Trump and his top aides have endorsed Guaidó’s attempts to oust Maduro.

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

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