Vice President Mike Pence: For the future of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro must go

Early yesterday morning in Venezuela, armed members of Nicolas Maduro’s secret intelligence force broke into the homes of government officials connected to the only legitimate president of Venezuela, Juan Guaido. Maduro’s thugs threatened their lives and those of their family members, and they brutally kidnapped Roberto Marrero, President Guaido’s Chief of Staff. Even now, Mr. Marrero is being held against his will in an undisclosed location.

The United States calls for the immediate release of Roberto Marrero. We will not tolerate Marrero’s imprisonment or the intimidation of the legitimate government of Venezuela. And those responsible will be held accountable.

Maduro must release Marrero now.

This egregious violation of the rule of law is only the most recent example of Maduro’s brutality and despotism. Last month, the world watched as the dictator danced in Caracas while his henchmen murdered civilians and blocked truckloads of food and medicine destined for the suffering people of Venezuela. And just a few weeks before his inauguration, Maduro’s intelligence forces arrested Interim President Guaido in a shameless attempt to bully him into silence. Fortunately, they failed.

Maduro’s corruption and socialist policies have turned what once was one of the richest countries in the Western Hemisphere into one of the poorest. Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by nearly half. Nine out of 10 Venezuelans live in poverty.

Maduro’s brutality has spurred the largest cross-border mass exodus in the history of this hemisphere, as more than three million Venezuelans have abandoned their homeland already, with another two million expected to follow this year.

Since day one of this administration, President Trump has taken decisive action to isolate the dictator Maduro and to stand with the Venezuelan people as they reclaim their freedom.

At the President’s direction, the United States has cut off illicit sources of income for Maduro’s corrupt regime by imposing sanctions on more than 150 government officials and organizations, and we’ve blocked their ability to steal American dollars from Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA.

We’ve revoked hundreds of Venezuelan visas – including top officials in Maduro’s inner circle and their relatives, who have undermined Venezuela’s democracy and prolonged the crisis.

Earlier this week, the United States also placed sanctions on Minerven, Venezuela’s state-owned gold-mining company. And as President Trump said on Tuesday, the United States can be “a lot tougher if we need to.”

And rest assured, more is on the way.

And to help alleviate the suffering caused by Venezuela’s failed state, the United States has provided nearly $200 million in aid to support displaced Venezuelans, and staged more than 525 metric tons of food and humanitarian supplies in neighboring countries – aid that Maduro refuses to let in.

The United States was the first nation in the world to recognize that Juan Guaido is the only legitimate president of Venezuela, and since then more than 50 other nations have united in this call. So today, we call on every nation in the international community to join us, and to withdraw support from the failed dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro.

Nicolas Maduro continues to stand in the way of Venezuela’s freedom and democracy.

The truth is, he does so with the help of nations who refuse to acknowledge that he has no legitimate claim to power, and who continue to prop up his dictatorship.

Even now, Cuban military and intelligence services train, support, and equip Venezuela’s secret police as they bully protestors and silence opposition. Turkey continues to deal in Venezuelan gold, providing Maduro with desperately needed cash to sustain his regime.

Last month, Russia vetoed a resolution at the United Nations calling for unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela.

And once again, China is advancing its own interests at the expense of the Venezuelan people. Later this month, China plans to host the Inter-American Development Bank’s annual meeting.

But despite claims of friendship, the Chinese are undermining the hemisphere’s progress towards democracy by refusing to grant an official visa to Ricardo Hausmann, the lawful representative of Venezuela – the first time in the bank’s history that a host nation has refused to seat a member.

These nations are propping up a corrupt dictator despite Venezuela’s steady march towards freedom. And their actions are a reminder of the threat that distant powers pose to our region’s security and prosperity.

But these desperate attempts to preserve Maduro’s despotic regime also show that his time in Venezuela is coming to an end.

And that truth rang out last weekend in the voice of a little boy.Last Saturday, President Guaido was speaking at a rally in the northern city of Valencia when a young boy named Daniel made his way to the front of the crowd, eager for a chance to speak.

When President Guaido asked him what he wanted to say, Daniel spoke for millions of Venezuelans when he shouted into the microphone, “We, the kids, want a future!” And the crowd roared in agreement.Daniel put into words the hope of the people of Venezuela: hope for freedom, opportunity, and an end to the oppressive regime of Nicolas Maduro.

Nicolas Maduro must go.

Under President Trump, the United States will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela as they reclaim their birthright of libertad. And every nation of the world owes it to hopeful young Venezuelans like Daniel to do the same.

Mike Pence is the Vice President of the United States of America.