Just two days after President Donald Trump said a ‘military operation’ could be in store for Venezuela, one of the commander-in-chief’s Latin American counterparts told him to take any ideas involving the army off the table.
In a statement, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said his colleagues across the continent favored “other measures” to address the crisis in neighboring Venezuela.
His remark was issued alongside Vice President Mike Pence, who is currently touring Central and South America.
“Since friends have to tell them the truth, I’ve told Vice President Pence the possibility of military intervention shouldn’t even be considered,” Santos said.
“The Latin American continent, every country in Latin America, would not favor any form of military intervention and that is why we are saying we are intent on looking into other measures,” Santos said, “some of which are already underway and others to be implemented in the future.
“But a transition in the Venezuelan regime towards democracy must be a peaceful transition,” Colombia’s chief executive added. “It must be hopefully a democratic transition. And it must be done quickly.”
While Santos’ comments may echo true across Latin America, Colombia is an especially vulnerable position. Since 2015, the country has dealt with waves of refugees fleeing violence and political instability. Attempts to close various crossings along the border with Venezuela have led to sporadic bouts of rioting and clashes between law enforcement and civilian protesters.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent attempts to eliminate his opposition have drawn strong condemnation from the international community. Among the most controversial moves administered in Caracas has been the dissolution of the national parliament, which was recently replaced by a body of the president’s supporters.
Donald Trump has been a vociferous critic of the developments, frequently accusing Maduro of being a budding tyrant.
“Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, and, as President Trump has said, the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” said Pence on Sunday.
“President Trump is a leader who says what he means and means what he says, but the president sent me here to continue to marshal the unprecedented support of countries across Latin America to achieve by peaceable means the restoration of democracy in Latin America, and we believe it is achievable by those means,” he explained, albeit in a somewhat roundabout fashion.
Despite the disconnect between Santos and Trump, Vice President Pence made sure to highlight the largely cooperative relationship between the White House and Colombia, calling the country and the three others he plans to visit “key partners and friends of the United States.”