Acting Pentagon chief calls for Maduro to step down in Venezuela

Acting Pentagon chief calls for Maduro to step down in Venezuela
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Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick ShanahanPatrick Michael ShanahanThe Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck Trump urged to quickly fill Pentagon post amid Iran tensions Trump says he intends to nominate Esper to lead Pentagon MORE and Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez Tuesday called on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to relinquish power.
 
In a joint statement after a meeting at the Pentagon, Shanahan and Ramírez said opposition leader Juan Guaidó is "the legitimate leader of Venezuela who is officially recognized by 54 countries around the world, and the democratically elected National Assembly."
 
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Colombia is the United States' top ally in the region, and also the largest recipient of refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
 
By most estimates, Colombia has received more than one million Venezuelans, out of the estimated three million who have fled the country.
 
The United States and Colombia were among the first countries to recognize Guaidó's claim to the presidency, and have both called for Maduro to step down.
 
U.S. Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump calls on foreign countries to protect their own oil tankers Trump to travel to South Korea The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck MORE last week alleged that Russian interference kept Maduro from leaving the country after Guaidó led a short-lived uprising meant to shore up military and popular support for the opposition.
 
Cuban humanitarian and security assistance is widely believed to be at the core of Maduro's stranglehold on military power.
 
Shanahan and Ramírez alluded to the Russian and Cuban support for Maduro in their joint statement.
 
"The U.S.-Colombia defense relationship is stronger than ever," they said.
 
"Together we stand committed to resolving the humanitarian crisis in our hemisphere, in stark contrast with malign foreign attempts to interfere militarily.  We look forward to the day we can rebuild a relationship with Venezuela’s military," added Shanahan and Ramírez.