US VP Mike Pence in Colombia confident of Venezuela solution

US President Mike Pence was speaking in the Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena in Colombia at the start of a four-stop Latin American tour, which is likely be dominated by discussions about Venezuela.

President Donald Trump had said earlier this week that he was considering military action against Venezuela for its systematic erosion of democracy. Hundreds of people have died in protests in Venezuela as Maduro attempts to install a new political system.

Read more: Donald Trump says military option for Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro on the table

“As the President has said, the people of Venezuela are suffering. President Trump is absolutely determined to marshall all of the support of nations across this region to see democracy restored in Venezuela,” Pence said at a press conference alongside Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Vice President Mike Pence, right, is welcomed by Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos at the presidential guesthouse in Cartagena, Colombia (picture alliance/AP Photo/F. Vergara)

Pence with Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos. The VP is touring four Latin American nations with talks overshadowed by the situation in Venezuela.

Read more: Mike Pence heads to South America amid Venezuela unrest

“What the world heard last week was a resolve and a determination not to let this moment slip, not to stand idly by while a neighbor collapses into dictatorship.

“We believe we can achieve by peaceful means a transition in Venezuela back to the democracy that the people so richly deserve.”

When asked if the US was considering oil-based sanctions Pence said it was considering a range of different options.

“We will remain vigorous in our efforts to isolate Venezuela economically and diplomatically and I would anticipate additional US action in this regard sooner rather than later,” Pence said.

Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?

US must not consider military action says Santos

President Santos said he told Pence that the US must not even consider military action in response to Venezuela’s crisis.

“America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such,” Santos said.

Speaking on the drug trade, Pence said that a spike in coca production in Colombia “must end.”

Defends Trump’s comments on Charlottesville

When asked about the violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia at the weekend, Pence defended Trump’s comments.

Read more: Donald Trump criticized for lackluster reaction to Charlottesville violence

“I take issue with many in the national media who spent more time criticizing the president’s words than those who perpetrated the violence. We should be putting attention where it belongs and that is on these extremists groups.”

The vice president condemned all those who engaged in violence at the rallies.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and … and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Pence said.

“The president also made clear that behavior by others of different militant perspectives are also unacceptable in our political debate and discourse.

“Our administration is bringing the full resources of the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the violence that ensued yesterday and we will hold them to account under the law.”

Opinion: Charlottesville violence reflects Trump America

Pence will stop in Argentina, Chile and Panama, giving speeches and meeting with leaders and touring the newly expanded Panama Canal.

aw/ (AP, Reuters)

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