Vice President Pence announced nearly $56 million in additional humanitarian assistance to countries that are supporting the regional response to the crisis in Venezuela and outlined additional sanctions on members aligned with the illegitimate regime of former President Nicolas Maduro.

“The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy,” Pence said February 25 in his remarks to the Lima Group in Colombia. “It was utterly unconscionable that Maduro blocked hundreds of tons of aid from reaching impoverished people across Venezuela.”

People in uniform standing in middle of road (© Ivan Valencia/AP Images)
Maduro’s soldiers block the border between Brazil and Venezuela February 23. (© Ivan Valencia/AP Images)

Violence at the border

Over the February 23-24 weekend, forces loyal to Maduro opened fire on thousands who turned out to support interim President Juan Guaidó’s call to allow entry of humanitarian aid into Venezuela. Hundreds were injured and least five people were killed, Pence said.

“The events of the last two days have only steeled our resolve,” Pence said. This was “the desperate act of a tyrant.”

Charred trucks and barrels on bridge (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)
Charred trucks that were part of a humanitarian aid convoy attempting to cross into Venezuela sit parked on the Francisco de Paula Santander international bridge in Cúcuta, Colombia, February 23. (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)

The items blocked at the border were to help the millions of Venezuelans who, after years of corruption and mismanagement by the Maduro government, face severe shortages of food and medicine.

New aid and sanctions

The United States has provided more than $195 million, including more than $152 million in humanitarian assistance, since fiscal year 2017, to provide lifesaving aid to Venezuelans and affected communities and to support the efforts of countries hosting Venezuelans who have fled the chaos in their homeland.

People, including a man carrying a child, crossing rocky riverbed (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)
Venezuelans cross the Táchira River to enter into Colombia, near the Simón Bolívar International Bridge in La Parada, Colombia, February 25. (© Fernando Vergara/AP Images)

However, Pence noted that the United States is not just working to alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people through aid. It is also increasing the pressure on Maduro and his supporters by sanctioning four governors for endemic corruption and blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“While we stand with the Venezuelan people,” Pence said, “we will also continue to stand up to all of those who would oppress them.”

An international effort

The Lima Group is an organization of 14 countries in North, Central and South America that came together in 2017 to address the crisis in Venezuela. Though the United States is not a member of the Lima Group, Pence was invited to attend this meeting and praised the group’s work on restoring democracy to Venezuela.

People in street with bicycles (© Rodrigo Abd/AP Images)
Residents look at National Guard officers at the closed border crossing with Colombia in Urena, Venezuela, February 25. (© Rodrigo Abd/AP Images)

“The Lima Group has proudly led hemispheric efforts to call out the Maduro Regime for its slide into dictatorship,” Pence said. And “thanks in large part to the leadership represented here today, more than 50 nations have joined us in recognizing interim President Juan Guaidó as the only legitimate president of Venezuela.”

“As Simón Bolívar said,” Pence quoted, “‘A people that loves freedom will in the end be free.'”