Pence, Maduro trade barbs over Venezuela’s human rights

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to the press at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on Tuesday. During his visit to Brazil, Pence accused Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of running a "devastating" dictatorship. Photo by Joédson Alves/EPA-EFE

June 28 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called U.S. Vice President Mike Pence a “poisonous viper” Thursday, one day after Pence accused him of running a “devastating” dictatorship.

Maduro made the comments during a televised speech.

“Every time the poisonous viper Mike Pence opens his mouth, I feel stronger,” the president said. “We have defeated you, and we are going to defeat [you] wherever you are.”

Pence is traveling throughout Latin America to encourage leaders to respect the United States’ border and to put pressure on Venezuela in response to an economic and humanitarian crisis.

A report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights earlier this month said 87 percent of Venezuelans are affected by poverty, with extreme poverty at 61 percent. At least 1.5 million people have fled the country since 2014 amid political and economic troubles. The agency said Venezuelan security forces killed more than 500 people between July 2015 and March 2017.

In May, President Donald Trump signed an executive order preventing Venezuela from liquidating public assets to U.S. buyers after Maduro’s re-election, which the U.S. administration deemed fraudulent. The United States condemned the regime for banning major opposition leaders from participating and suppressing free press. In some cases, U.S. officials said, regime officials gave food or money to voters who voted for Maduro. In the past, communities who have voted against the regime had food benefits withheld from them.

During a stop in Brazil on Wednesday, Pence slammed the Venezuelan “government’s vicious gangs” for suppressing civilians.

“The Maduro regime has violently suppressed those who question or criticize their reign,” he said. “So many of you have experienced and seen firsthand the extraordinary, heartbreaking, devastating impact of dictatorship on your homeland in Venezuela.”

Pence was expected to meet with leaders from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.


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