(Reuters) - A peaceful solution to unrest and political turmoil in Venezuela is possible, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Sunday, after President Donald Trump threatened military action and sparked condemnation around the region.
Trump's surprise comments on Friday that military intervention in Venezuela was an option brought condemnation from Peru, Mexico and Colombia, usually some of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's toughest critics.
"We have many options for Venezuela, but the President also remains confident that working with all of our allies across Latin America we can achieve a peaceable solution," Pence said in Cartagena, Colombia, where he is kicking off a trip to several Latin American countries.
"We will continue to stand with free nations across our hemisphere until democracy is restored for the Venezuelan people," Pence said, striking a more conciliatory tone than Trump.
A military intervention should not even be contemplated, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said during the joint press conference with Pence.
However, the two leaders did discuss possible further sanctions against the socialist country, Pence said.
"President Santos and I discussed in some detail additional measures that could be taken to further pressure the regime in Venezuela economically," he said. The U.S. is "looking at a full range of additional economic sanctions," Pence added.
Trump's comments may be a political lifeline for the unpopular Maduro, who has long used the threat of U.S. aggression to justify policies that have shredded the economy.
More than 120 Venezuelans have been killed in unrest since April, as the economy collapses deeper into a recession compounded by triple-digit inflation as well as food and medicine shortages.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Chris Reese and Michael Perry)