The Lima Group held a highly anticipated meeting today, the first since a disastrous attempt at delivering humanitarian aid into Venezuela drew the attention of the world on Saturday. Tensions were high ahead of today’s meeting, as both interim president Juan Guaido and United States senator Marco Rubio hinted in tweets over the weekend that a military escalation to the conflict might be coming.
Guaido appeared to attempt to set the tone for the meeting with his opening remarks, in which he said that “all political and diplomatic resources have been exhausted” as he asked:
Now, what can we do as a region in order to support Venezuela?
However, despite thistension, the Lima Group concluded its meeting by issuing a joint statement in which it specifically states that political change in Venezuela must come “without the use of force”. Part of the statement reads:
[The Lima Group] reiterates its belief that the transition to democracy should be driven peacefully by Venezuelan themselves and within the framework of the Constitution and of international law, supported by political and diplomatic means, without the use of force.
In the same statement, the Lima Group said that Maduro’s presidency “represents an unprecedented threat to security, peace, freedom and prosperity” in the region.
At the same time, the statement reveals that the Group will ask that the International Criminal Court “take into consideration… the criminal violence” that the Maduro regime is perpetrating on the Venezuelan people, which it considers “constitute crimes against humanity”.
Pence Attends Meeting, Promises Financial Aid
While the United States is not formally a part of the Lima Group, vice president Mike Pence was in attendance at today’s meeting. During his turn at the microphone, Pence said:
We stand with you, and along with all the nations gathered here today, we will keep standing with you until democracy and liberty are restored.
Pence also announced that the White House would provide $56 million “to support our partners in the region” in their struggle to accommodate Venezuelan migrants, and that it would also place additional financial sanctions on regime insiders.
The statement came at the same time that the United States Department of the Treasury issued sanctions on four governors of the ruling PSUV party. They are:
- Rafael Lacava (Carabobo)
- Ramon Carrizalez (Apure)
- Jorge Carneiro (Vargas)
- Omar Prieto (Zulia)
Later in the day, the United States called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations to address the Venezuelan crisis. The meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow.
Clashes Continue on Santander, Simon Bolivar Bridges
Protesters threw rocks and Molotov Cocktails at authorities posted on the Venezuelan side of the Santander and Simon Bolivar bridges today, continuing the confrontations that began there on Saturday.
On the Simon Bolivar bridge, Colombian authorities and protesters alike took cover as Venezuelan National Guard and National Bolivarian Police officers fired tear gas and rubber pellets:
Meanwhile, on the Santander bridge a short distance away, a group of National Bolivarian Police and National Guard officers chased protesters who had been throwing rocks at them throughout the afternoon into Colombia. As the Venezuelan authorities advanced into Colombia, they appeared to hesitate as the gravity of the situation dawned on them. Then, Venezuelan and Colombian officers alike began gesturing to the advancing officers to stop:
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