Pence going to Colombia to demand Maduro step down

Vice President Pence will travel to Colombia on Monday to demand Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro step down and allow U.S.-recognized interim President Juan Guaidó take power.

Pence will be in Colombia to “voice the United States’s unwavering support for interim President Juan Guaidó and highlight the Venezuelan people’s fight for democracy over dictatorship,” the vice president’s office said in a statement.

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The Trump administration has repeatedly called on Maduro to step down, excoriating him as a socialist dictator whose policies have sparked food and medicine shortages in what was once one of Latin America’s most prosperous countries.

Maduro was sworn in for a second six-year term earlier this year, but the U.S., joined by many other nations, declared the election illegitimate. The White House instead recognized Guaidó, an opposition leader and the president of Venezuela's National Assembly, as Venezuela’s interim president.

The White House has repeatedly said it prefers a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but has maintained that using military force to remove Maduro from power is still an option on the table.

The administration announced last month it was imposing new sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company to try to boost pressure on Maduro. The administration also said it intends to grant Guaidó control over Venezuela’s foreign assets.

The leadership struggle has led to street demonstrations, causing the State Department to order some diplomats to leave Venezuela last month amid security concerns.