The first U.S. vice president to address the Organization of American States (OAS) since Al Gore in 1994, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at a protocolary meeting of the Permanent Council to push for regional cooperation in further isolating the government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
Addressing representatives of the 34 member nations, Pence called on the president Maduro to suspend the country’s “sham” presidential election. Pence also announced new sanctions on three Venezuelans he dubbed “narcotics kingpins”—as well as the 20 companies they control—which restrict their financial and travel access to the United States.
In an effort to encourage OAS member states to increase pressure on Venezuela, Pence called on the organization to suspend the Venezuelan government from the multilateral body and called on member states to take three concrete actions against the country: cut financial ties with high-level officials in the Maduro administration; place visa restrictions on those officials; and hold Maduro accountable for destroying Venezuela’s democracy.
The actions follow sanctions already put in place, first by the Obama administration and now ramped up under President Donald J. Trump. The administration has already sanctioned dozens of Venezuelan officials, including Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami.
Under Maduro the country has fallen in an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that has led to a mass exodus, with an estimated 1.6 million Venezuelans already living outside the country. In his speech, Pence blamed Maduro for denying the humanitarian crisis in the country and for limiting the access to humanitarian aid: “The time has come to open Venezuela to international aid, and do it now.”
Pence also praised the work of the Grupo de Lima, which, during the VIII Summit of the Americas, declared they would not recognize the result of the May 20th election and pledged to continue to promote the restoration of democratic institution and the full force of the rule of law in Venezuela.
During a keynote address at the annual conference of the Council of the Americas, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, joined in condemning the Maduro regime. These two speeches will be reinforced by members of the departments of State and Treasury during speeches throughout the week on building enough regional pressure to force Venezuela into holding off the election until they can be sure voting will be free and fair.