Pence Demands UN Expel Venezuela's Ambassador and Support Guaido

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged the United Nations to revoke the credentials of Venezuela’s UN envoy and throw its support behind interim President Juan Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

“The Western Hemisphere has spoken with a clear voice –- nations across the world have spoken –- and now it’s time for the United Nations to speak,” Pence told the Security Council on Wednesday where he also announced the U.S. would introduce a resolution supporting Guaido. “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go,” he said, referring to Venezuela’s president.

At one point during the hearing, Pence looked over at Venezuelan envoy Samuel Moncada Acosta and said, “With all due respect, Mr. Ambassador, you shouldn’t be here. You should return to Venezuela and tell Nicolas Maduro that his time is up. It’s time for him to go.”

The U.S. has been seeking to lead a coalition of nations to isolate Maduro’s regime and shore up support for Guaido, the opposition leader who was declared interim president by the country’s national assembly. But a U.S. resolution at the Security Council calling for free and fair elections earlier this year was blocked by Russia and China, who have long been allied with Maduro’s government.

It remained unclear whether the U.S. would use the General Assembly or the Security Council in its effort to revoke Maduro’s credentials and Pence declined to elaborate on how the U.S. would advance the resolution.

‘Utter Collapse’

With the country’s crisis at a stalemate, humanitarian conditions in Venezuela have continued to decline. A report last week said Venezuela’s health system is in “utter collapse.” It cited the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and diphtheria, rising infant mortality and sharp increases in the transmission of infectious diseases including malaria and tuberculosis. Child malnutrition is widespread, according to the report by researchers at Human Rights Watch and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Following Pence, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzya said his country wants to see an end to the humanitarian crisis, but he blamed the current situation on western interventions, saying the U.S. is “shamelessly expropriating Venezuelan assets.” Western countries such as France and Peru, which have backed U.S. efforts at the Security Council, laid the blame squarely on Maduro.

“There is no foreign plot here, the Venezuelan regime is the sole culprit for this situation,” said Francois Delattre, France’s UN ambassador.

The International Monetary Fund suspended the Maduro regime’s access to almost $400 million from the fund, according to two people familiar with the matter, cutting off one of the government’s few remaining sources of hard currency.

Pence’s UN appearance comes as Secretary of State Michael Pompeo prepares to travel to South America this week to press for change in Venezuela. Pompeo will make stops in Chile, Paraguay, and Peru before heading to Cucuta, Colombia, the border town with Venezuela through which the U.S. has attempted to deliver humanitarian aid earlier this year.

Pence said the U.S. will provide an additional $60 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuela -- though, like earlier efforts, it wasn’t clear how that assistance would get into the country.

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