Remarks by Vice President Pence at Venezuela Solidarity Event
1:37 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Buenas tardes a todos! (Applause.) Thank you, Governor DeSantis; First Lady Casey DeSantis; members of Congress; Ambassador Trujillo; distinguished guests. Karen and I are so honored to join you here in this beautiful place of worship with our fellow Americans and so many proud sons and daughters of Venezuela. (Applause.)
And as I begin allow me to bring greetings from a friend of mine, and a great champion of liberty in Venezuela and all across this hemisphere of freedom. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not long ago, on the President’s behalf, I came here to this very city to deliver a message to you. I told you that we would be with you, that America would stand for a free Venezuela.
And, today, the United States is proud to stand with the Venezuelan people. And I believe the day is coming when Venezuela will be free once more — (applause) — when Venezuela reclaims its libertad!
AUDIENCE: Libertad! Libertad! Libertad!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, on the President’s behalf, I want to thank you all — so many heroes in the room — for your tireless efforts. But let me give special thanks, before I begin, to four relentless champions of freedom for the Venezuelan people — four leaders who have been at President Trump’s side since day one, championing freedom and the restoration of democracy for the Venezuelan people. Would you join me in thanking Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Senator Rick Scott, Governor Ron DeSantis, and Senator Marco Rubio? (Applause.)
The President asked me to be here to show our unwavering commitment to the good people of Venezuela. For too long, the people of Venezuela have suffered under the heavy hand of oppression. But now there is hope. There is hope in Venezuela. Across that country, in the largest cities and the smallest towns, people are rising up in defense of their rights. And as President Trump said just last week, “the fight for freedom has begun.” (Applause.)
And to be clear: The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy, and freedom has the momentum. Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go. (Applause.)
Just three weeks ago, the National Assembly –- the only legitimate elected body in Venezuela -– declared that it no longer recognized the Maduro regime. The National Assembly invoked the constitution and recognized a new leader, a man who speaks for the people of Venezuela and cherishes their rights.
And last week, as hundreds of thousands of citizens marched through the streets in the name of freedom, that leader stood before his country and took an oath “before Almighty God.” And the United States of America was proud to be the first nation on Earth to recognize the only legitimate President of Venezuela, President Juan Guaidó. (Applause.)
I spoke to Juan Guaidó the night before he took that oath, and I’ll never forget it. I marveled at his calm, his courage, and his faith. Just two days ago, President Trump spoke to President Guaidó and congratulated him on his historic assumption of the presidency of Venezuela. (Applause.) He reinforced our strong support for his leadership and for Venezuela’s fight to regain its freedom.
And the United States has made it clear: The safety and security of President Guaidó and his family are of great importance to the American people. (Applause.)
Just yesterday, Maduro threatened President Guiadó’s family, sending paramilitary police to his home. But we know that President Guaidó and the Venezuelan people will never be intimidated, and neither will we. (Applause.)
The United States is proud to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president. And Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Argentina, and many other countries have followed America’s lead. All told, more than 20 nations have announced their support for President Guaidó. (Applause.)
But let me make it clear to leaders around the world: That is not enough. There can be no bystanders in the struggle for Venezuela’s freedom. The United States, today, calls on every nation to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s President, and take the side of freedom. (Applause.)
The United States has also taken action to support the National Assembly and the government of Juan Guaidó. And just this week, it was my privilege to welcome its newest representative to the White House — a man who was imprisoned twice by the Maduro regime, forced into exile here in Florida. But despite all he’s faced, he still works tirelessly to restore democracy in his homeland. Would you join me in thanking the new Ambassador to the United States of America from a free Venezuela, Ambassador Carlos Vecchio. (Applause.)
As I told Ambassador Vecchio, the National Assembly and President Guaidó have our full support because we recognize the truth that Nicolas Maduro’s dictatorship is destroying Venezuela. When the dictator came to power six long years ago, he promised to deliver an agenda of socialism. And sadly for the Venezuelan people, Maduro did just that.
As we gather here, Venezuela’s socialism has shrunk their economy by nearly half. More than 9 out of 10 people live in poverty, and the average Venezuelan has lost more than 20 pounds through deprivation and malnutrition. Thousands of Venezuelan children are starving at this very hour.
And rising desperation has fueled a mass exodus. More than three million Venezuelans have now abandoned their beloved country. And if things don’t get better, another two million are expected to follow them before the year is out.
And those who stay behind are subject to lawlessness and crime, as well as deprivation. Thieves in Venezuela don’t target banks; they target restaurants. Vicious gangs and government-backed cartels have turned the streets into literal warzones. Venezuela now has the second-highest murder rate in the world, and more than 70 people are slaughtered every single day.
For years, the Venezuelan people have tried to save their country in the ballot box. In 2015, they elected the National Assembly that is still Venezuela’s best hope. But in response, the dictator imprisoned his opponents, orchestrated sham elections, cracked down on protests with lethal force. In fact, in just the past two weeks, security forces have jailed more than 850 protestors, and murdered at least 40 more.
We will never forget them. We will always honor the memory of the martyrs who died for democracy in Venezuela. (Applause.)
Just a few moments ago, Karen and I had the privilege to meet with several Venezuelans who have fled in search of a better life. We heard their stories. And they told us then that they weren’t there to tell us their story; they were there to represent all of those who could not speak in this moment.
We spoke with Jose and Francis, who took their children and left their home two years ago. Jose had spoken out for freedom, placing his own life in danger.
We heard from Jesus, a former councilmember from the city of Valera. The government gangs began to target him, even telling his mother that they would murder him. He had to leave his home to save his life.
We listened to Raul, wrongly accused and imprisoned for seven years, where he was tortured by the regime and witnessed others tortured as well. He saw the murder of fellow inmates. And he spoke today on behalf of those who are still being held.
To all of these courageous men and women, to all of you who have fled Venezuela: We are with you, and I promise we will stay with you until you can safely return home to a free Venezuela. (Applause.)
Venezuela’s plight has captured not just the attention of our President and our people, it has stirred the United States of America to act. We do this because it is what justice requires. We also do this because it is in our interest, as well.
Venezuela is a failed state, and failed states know no boundaries, have no borders. A Venezuela overrun with drug smugglers, gangs, human traffickers is a danger to all people and all nations in this hemisphere.
The very crisis on our southern border today is driven, in large part, by criminal organizations that have overwhelmed countries across our hemisphere. Let me be clear: The United States of America wants every nation in our hemisphere to be a place where people can flourish and build their own futures in their own homeland. (Applause.)
And so we stand. We stand for freedom and security for the Venezuelan people. We stand for the security of both our nations. And I promise you, the United States will continue to stand with the Venezuelan people, and we will continue to stand up to their oppressors. (Applause.)
At President Trump’s direction, the United States has imposed sanctions on more than 50 current and former Venezuelan officials, targeting known drug-runners and human rights abusers, and government thieves who’ve enriched themselves by impoverishing the people.
And since oil is the lifeblood of that corrupt regime, this week the United States of America sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Venezuela’s oil belongs with the Venezuelan people. (Applause.)
And you can be assured the United States will always support the Venezuelan people as they work to restore a constitutional government and hold free and transparent elections. But let’s be clear: This is no time for dialogue; this is time for action. (Applause.) And the time has come to end the Maduro dictatorship once and for all. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: To that end, the United States will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy.
But those looking on should know this: All options are on the table. (Applause.) And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Maduro’s tyranny must end, and it must end now. But as the Venezuelan people know, their oppressors do not act alone. Under President Donald Trump, the United States has also stood up to those who have aided and abetted the dictatorship in Venezuela. The truth is, the dictator has lost the support of his people, and even now is beginning to lose the support of his military. The only way he clings to power is with the help that he receives from communist Cuba. (Applause.)
The people of Venezuela know Cuba’s leaders are the real imperialists in the western hemisphere. (Applause.) The truth has to be told. For decades, Cuba has tried to create client states across the region. While normal countries export goods, Cuba exports tyranny and strong-arm tactics. Cuba’s influence has driven Venezuela’s failure, and the time has come to liberate Venezuela from Cuba. (Applause.)
Cuba’s malign influence is evident in Venezuela, and also in Nicaragua, where the regime of Daniel Ortega is oppressing the people and denying their basic rights. (Applause.) That’s just one more reason why President Trump kept his promise when he reversed the failed policies of the last administration toward Cuba, because the Cuban people have the same birthright of liberty that God gave us all.
Venezuela deserves to be free. Nicaragua deserves to be free. And in this White House, under this President, it will always be Que Viva Cuba Libre! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In addition to the strong actions President Trump has taken — economic and diplomatic efforts — I want to assure all of you that America has also been there for the Venezuelan people, over $100 million in humanitarian support so far.
You know, Karen and I saw firsthand the hardship facing families who’ve fled the collapse of Venezuela when we travelled through the region last year. Like the grandmother my wife and I met in Cartagena, Colombia. She literally gathered her four grandchildren with her because she told me how it had gotten so bad in their small town in Venezuela that the children had to rise at four in the morning to gain a ticket to buy one piece of bread at four in the afternoon. So she gathered up her grandchildren and she made the journey to Colombia.
We gathered with families in Manaus, Brazil. And I’ll never forget the father, with his two little boys at his side looking up, who told me how hard it was, and how many times he had to tell those boys, “We’re not going to eat today.”
Let me assure them and you: The United States of America stands ready to deliver humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people in Venezuela, as well. (Applause.)
We are prepared to work with the legitimate government of Venezuela, the National Assembly, and President Guaidó. The American people will marshal our resources and the resources of nations around the world to provide millions in humanitarian relief.
The truth is, it is unconscionable that Maduro himself has publicly refused to accept even a penny from America or the wider world in the form of humanitarian relief for his people.
The truth is, every day the dictator remains in power is another day of starvation and suffering. For the sake of the men, women, and children of Venezuela, Maduro must go. (Applause.)
Thank you all for being here today. We’re truly honored by your presence and your support. You know, freedom springs from the hearts of all the people of across this New World, doesn’t it? And in the words of Simón Bolivar, “A people that loves freedom will, in the end, be free.” (Applause.) And we believe that.
Tomorrow, for the second time this week, from the shores of the Caribbean to the streets of Caracas, to the foothills of the Andes, the Venezuelan people will rise again in peaceful protest. They will speak again with one voice, as one movement, with one purpose as they take to the streets to demand their rights, and the United States of America will stand with them. (Applause.)
And to them we say, as you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the President of the United States and the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela: Estamos con ustedes. We are with you, we stand with you, and we will stay with you until democracy is restored. (Applause.)
And we also say from our hearts that as you take to the streets again, know that you do not go alone. You go with the support of the American people and with freedom-loving people all across the world. And you also go, I believe with all of my heart, with the author of freedom, who said, “Do not be afraid; stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today… for where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (Applause.)
With faith in that great promise, faith in all who have joined us in this hemisphere of freedom, with faith in the courage and strength of the Venezuelan people, and the generosity and strength of the American people, I believe with all my heart: The day is coming soon when Venezuela will once more be free, when her people will see a “new birth of freedom,” in a nation reborn to libertad.
So to the good people of Venezuela: As you go to seek your freedom, we go with you. You go with God. Vayan con Dios. God bless you, God bless the good people of Venezuela, and God bless the United States of America.
END 2:03 P.M. EST