Pence: Crisis in Venezuela threat to US, regional security

US Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno, speak at the Carondelet presidential palace in Quito on June 28, 2018.

The crisis in Venezuela poses a threat to the security of the United States and countries in the region, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday, and “the U.S. will not stand idly by while Venezuela collapses.”

The Vice President made the remarks in a joint address with Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno in Quito.

“It is remarkable to think that, once one of the most vibrant countries and economies in the Western hemisphere, Venezuela is now essentially a failed state and the Venezuelan people are suffering,” said Pence.

The United States will work closely with Ecuador and other “freedom-loving countries” in the region to confront “the ongoing collapse of Venezuela into dictatorship, deprivation and despair” that has resulted in a mass exodus of more than two million people and has empowered drug cartels and human trafficking, he said.

“I am anxious in our discussions to find new and renewed ways that we can work in concert with other nations across this hemisphere to see not only humanitarian aid made available to the Venezuelan people, but also to see democracy restored,” said Pence.

Pence urged Ecuador and allies across the globe “to take steps to further isolate” the Maduro regime so that the Venezuelan people can “reclaim their birth right of freedom.”

During his speech in Quito after meeting with Moreno, Pence also said the United States and Ecuador are “at the beginning of a new chapter” of their relationship and praised Moreno for taking “bold action” to grow the economy and for being “a champion of the rule of law.”

Pence visited Ecuador as part of a trip to various countries in Latin America, aimed at addressing issues like security and migration, as his administration faces the fallout of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy at home that has spurred international outcry for forcing the separation of small children from their families.

Pence’s remarks echoed the comments he made on Wednesday while meeting with Venezuelan migrants in Brazil, describing the rule of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as “dictatorship,” “repression” and “tyranny.”

Maduro slammed Pence’s comments, calling him a “poisonous viper.”

“Every time the poisonous snake of Mike Pence opens his mouth, I feel stronger, clearer of what the road is, the road is ours,” said Maduro during a televised speech. “It is not the one Mike Pence points out to us, not 20 poisonous snakes, not 20 vipers like Mike Pence. It is not what he says, what Venezuela is going to do.”

Tens of thousands have fled Venezuela as the country spirals deeper into a financial, political and humanitarian crisis.

Maduro blames his opponents for the crisis and maintains that U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan leaders are proof that the United States is waging an “economic war” on his country.