QUITO (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to Ecuador on Thursday urged Latin American nations to help isolate the crisis-stricken Venezuela, an ideological adversary of Washington that is struggling under an economic crisis.
Pence met with Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno as part of a tour of Latin America that has included meetings with Venezuelans who left the collapsing socialist country because they struggled to obtain food or medicine.
“One specific threat to our collective security that is on (our minds)…is the ongoing collapse of Venezuela into dictatorship, deprivation and despair,” Pence said during a joint news conference with Moreno.
“We respectfully urge Ecuador and all of our allies across the region to take steps to further isolate the Maduro regime.”
Pence said the United States offered to provide $2 million in assistance to Ecuador to handle the growing influx of migrants, whose growing numbers are overwhelming social services agencies in countries all over Latin America.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday called Pence a “poisonous viper” and promised to defeat what he called efforts to overthrow his government.
Moreno on Thursday said Ecuador was seeking to improving bilateral relations with the United States, which were tense during the decade-long rule of Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa – himself a socialist ally of Maduro.
But Moreno stopped short of heeding Pence’s call for increased isolation, instead urging dialogue and saying that the OPEC nation’s situation can only be resolved by Venezuelans themselves.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Alistair Bell)