State Department opens interim Venezuela office in Colombia amid internal conflict

State Department opens interim Venezuela office in Colombia amid internal conflict
© RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBolton replacement inherits tough challenges — including Trump Saudi Arabia says it will take 'appropriate' action if Iran's role in attacks confirmed Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump MORE on Wednesday announced that the United States has opened an interim diplomatic Venezuela office in Colombia amid internal conflict over Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's efforts to remain in power.

Pompeo said Charge d’Affaires James Story will oversee the Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU), which is located at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota‎, Colombia.

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"The VAU is continuing the U.S. mission to the legitimate Government of Venezuela and to the Venezuelan people," Pompeo said in a statement. "The VAU will continue to work for the restoration of democracy and the constitutional order in that country, and the security and well-being of the Venezuelan people."

The announcement of the VAU comes as the U.S. is supporting efforts to force Maduro out of power.

In January, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE formally recognized Juan Guaidó as the nation’s interim president, a move in which more than 50 other nations followed suit.

The VAU, Pompeo says, will only work with "Guaido, the democratically elected National Assembly, Venezuelan civil society, and the people of Venezuela."

"The United States stands with interim President Juan Guaido, the National Assembly, and the people of Venezuela as they seek to regain their democracy," his statement continues.

And the Trump administration, which has made regime change in Venezuela a top foreign policy priority, has also expanded sanctions against the state into a full economic embargo earlier this month.

Still, Maduro has fought back against the opposition forces that have U.S. backing, with some questioning whether efforts to oust the embattled leader have stalled.

After months of fighting, a leaked recording in June captured Pompeo admitting that keeping the opposition forces united in their fight had been “devilishly difficult.”