U.S. Vice President Mike Pence came to the Venezuelan enclave of Doral on Wednesday promising that the Trump administration would “bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.”
Pence brought the almost 1,000 Venezuelan expats inside the Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic church a strong pep talk and assurances that President Trump “will stand with you” in their efforts to topple a socialist regime that in recent months has morphed into what international critics call a dictatorship.
But the vice president offered no specifics when he pledged “there’s more to come” to add to the targeted economic sanctions the U.S. has levied so far against members of Venezuela’s socialist regime, including President Nicolás Maduro.
“We'll continue to act until the Maduro regime holds free and fair elections, releases all political prisoners and ends the repression of the Venezuelan people,” said Pence, to shouts of “Libertad!” and “Viva Trump!”
But he stopped short of announcing what many in the crowd had anticipated – namely, stronger economic sanctions against the Maduro regime that might even include the blockage of Venezuelan oil imports to the U.S. or a freeze on Venezuelan bond sales and purchases through U.S. financial institutions.
Still, Venezuelan expat leaders said afterwards they were confident the Trump administration would follow through with tougher measures. They included newly arrived exiles like Ramón Muchacho, the opposition mayor of the Caracas district of Chacao who recently had to flee Venezuela when the Maduro regime ordered him jailed for 15 months for allowing anti-government protests on his streets.
“I do believe the next step will be to stop the regime as a whole from getting money from other countries, especially the U.S.,” said Muchacho, who was part of a delegation of expats who met privately with Pence before his speech.
Trump remarked earlier this month that he was considering a “military option” against Venezuela. But after an outcry from other Latin American nations, Pence downplayed that possibility and held out hope for a “peaceable solution” to the crisis in Venezuela – which is suffering the worst economic collapse in the world today.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Miami U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also spoke at Our Lady of Guadalupe.