The Latest: In Colombia, Pence strikes balance on Venezuela

AP News
Posted: Aug 13, 2017 8:17 PM
The Latest: In Colombia, Pence strikes balance on Venezuela

CARTAGENA, Colombia (AP) — The Latest on Vice President Mike Pence's trip to Latin American (all times local):

7:10 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is striking a balance between Latin America's opposition to military intervention in neighboring Venezuela, and President Trump's assertion that military action is an option.

Pence held a news conference Sunday with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos in Cartagena. Santos said he told Pence the U.S. must not even consider military action in response to Venezuela's crisis.

Pence did not directly rule out idea of U.S. military action. Instead, he emphasized that the U.S. will work together with many nations in their "neighborhood" to pressure President Nicolas Maduro so Venezuela's democracy can be restored.

Pence said several times, "but the president sent me here" to build on that partnership. Pence says, "As President Trump said a few days ago, we have lots of options for Venezuela."


7 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is railing against Venezuela's descent into crisis. Pence says during a news conference in Colombia that "Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship" and says "the United States will not stand by" as democracy in the country "crumbles."

President Donald Trump shocked many last week when he said he would not rule out a "military" option when it comes to dealing with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's attempts to consolidate power.

Pence says he's confident they can find a peaceful solution, but did not explicitly rule out a military option.


6:55 p.m.

Colombia's president has told U.S. Vice President Mike Pence the U.S. must not consider a military response to crisis in neighboring Venezuela.

President Donald Trump said last week he would not rule out a "military option."

Pence landed Sunday in Colombia, then held a news conference with President Juan Manuel Santos.

Santos says the U.S. and Colombia are great friends — and adds, "But since friends have to tell each other the truth," he told Pence that military intervention "shouldn't even be considered."

Santos says: "America is a continent of peace. It is the land of peace. Let us preserve it as such."

Pence did not directly respond, noting only that Trump has said the U.S. has many options in Venezuela.


6:40 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says he has one message as he begins a trip to Latin America in Cartagena: "The United States stands with Colombia."

He's also telling Colombian officials that a spike in coca production in the country "must end."

Pence is speaking at a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on the first day of a weeklong trip to the region.

He's also announcing a decision by the U.S. to allow Colombian Hass avocados into the country.


4:55 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is being greeted by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the presidential house in Cartagena, Colombia.

Pence had an informal meeting shortly after arriving in the country. He told Santos that President Donald Trump sends his greetings and thanks Santos for his hospitality.

Pence and Santos will be holding joint meetings on the lush property before delivering statements and taking media questions.

The visit comes after Trump said Friday he would not rule out a "military option" in response to the crisis in neighboring Venezuela. The Colombian Foreign Ministry has condemned Trump's statement, saying it opposes any military measures.


4:45 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has landed in Cartagena, Colombia, as he begins a weeklong trip to Latin America.

Pence's trip comes amid a series of crises, including rising tensions with North Korea, growing political upheaval in Venezuela and deadly violence at home in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Talks during his trip are expected to focus on how best to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to restore Democratic rule and bolster trade relations across the region.

Pence's trip includes stops in Argentina, Chile and Panama.

President Donald Trump remains at his golf club in New Jersey.


1:45 p.m.

Venezuela's chief opposition coalition has issued a restrained criticism of President Donald Trump's talk of using a "military option" against the country's socialist government.

In a statement issued Sunday, the Democratic Unity coalition says it rejects "the use of force or threats of applying the same in Venezuela on the part of any country."

The statement doesn't directly mention Trump's statement on Friday, which alarmed many countries throughout the region, including allies such as Colombia. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be meeting later Sunday with Colombia's president.

The opposition declaration also ties its criticism to a renewed complaint about Cuban influence in the country.

Democratic Unity leaders have been among the key targets of a crackdown by Venezuela's government, which is backing a constitutional assembly to remake the country's political system.


12:20 p.m.

A Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is throwing cold water on President Donald Trump's statement that he's not ruling out a "military option" to help resolve the political crisis in Venezuela.

Here's what South Carolina's Lindsey Graham thinks: "I have no idea why we would use military force in Venezuela."

Graham says he's "a pretty hawkish guy" and knows why American troops are in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, South Korea and Europe.

But Venezuela?

He says: "I'm open-minded to a reason, but at the end of the day, our military should be deployed when there's a national security interest that can be articulated to the American people. I don't see one in Venezuela in terms of the military force."


12 p.m.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo (pahm-PAY'-oh) says that when President Donald Trump raised the prospect of possible U.S. military action in Venezuela, he was trying "to give the Venezuelan people hope and opportunity to create a situation where democracy can be restored."

Pompeo says Venezuela "could very much become a risk" to the U.S. if it descends into further chaos.

The CIA chief tells "Fox News Sunday" that "the Cubans are there. The Russians are there. The Iranians, Hezbollah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place. And so, America needs to take this very seriously."


10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser is defending the president's statement that he's not ruling out a "military option" to resolve the political crisis in Venezuela.

H.R. McMaster says Trump has asked his team to consider what might happen next in Venezuela.

McMaster says officials "want to not only be able to cope with the current situation, but understand better how this crisis might evolve."

He says the U.S. wants to protect the Venezuelan people and "prevent an even greater humanitarian catastrophe."

McMaster tells ABC's "This Week" that Trump "never takes options off the table in any of these situations and what we owe him are options."


7:45 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is set to visit Latin America at a time of unrest in Venezuela.

Pence plans to meet with Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, later Sunday at the start of a weeklong trip likely to be dominated by conversations about the crisis in Venezuela.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry has rejected President Donald Trump's statement that he wouldn't rule out a "military option" in response to the Venezuelan government's attempt to consolidate power.

The Colombian statement said efforts to resolve Venezuela's breakdown in democracy should be peaceful and respect its sovereignty.

Pence's schedule also includes stops in Argentina, Chile and Panama.