Vice President Mike Pence urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday in Ottawa to engage Cuba directly over its barriers to progress with Venezuela.
The vice president confirmed that, during his call with Interim Venezuelan President Juan Guaidó, they spoke about Norway talks. He added that his call with Guaidó was simply to assure the interim president that the U.S. is “with him.”
“The United States of America has taken decisive action to bring economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on the Maduro regime and also to those that support it in Cuba,” Pence told reporters in the gaggle.
He further assured Guaidó:
We stand for the principle that, while they have discussions with our European partners — as the Lima Group and the Contact Group all have their discussions about a transition to democracy — that we stand with President Juan Guaidó that there can be no transition with Maduro in power; that Nicolás Maduro has no legitimate claim to power. They had a fraudulent election last year. Nicolás Maduro must go.
“Once that is achieved, then we will stand with the people of Venezuela, with the National Assembly, and with Interim President Guaidó as they formulate a transition plan to a democratically elected government,” said Pence. “That’s what I made clear to him.”
Pence said he did communicate to Trudeau: “We believe that Cuba’s malign influence, of the presence of Cuban paramilitary and even military personnel on the ground in Venezuela, is a barrier to progress toward liberty and freedom.” He made mention of Canada’s relationship with Cuba and encouraged Trudeau to engage them directly.
He spoke of utilizing “authority under the Helms-Burton bill” and promised the U.S. will “continue to bring pressure to bear on Cuba until the people of Venezuela are free.”
“What President Guaidó said to me yesterday is just heartbreaking,” Pence said as he pointed to the suffering people of Venezuela. “More than 3 million people have fled the country. By some estimates, it’ll be more than 4 million very soon. Children are being deprived of medicine. People are literally starving in the country.”
“While the dictator is blaming international actions for that, the truth is, it’s been his dictatorship, his oppression, his Socialist policies that have impoverished that country,” said Pence. “The time has come for Nicolás Maduro to step away, to allow the people of Venezuela to return their nation to democracy. And I just wanted to assure Interim President Juan Guaidó that we will stand with them until we see freedom restored for the people of Venezuela.”