WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is set on Tuesday to offer new incentives to Venezuela’s military to turn against President Nicolas Maduro, responding to an attempted uprising that fizzled out last week, a senior administration official told Reuters.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence President delivers remarks to the National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action’s (NRA-ILA) 148th annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., April 26, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department, scheduled for 3:25 p.m. (1925 GMT), Pence will also warn that the United States will soon move to sanction 25 additional magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court, the official said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Pence will also offer assistance for refugees who have fled the country, and an economic aid package contingent on a political transition, according to the official.
Pence’s speech will lay out the administration’s initial strategy following massive street protests last week led by Juan Guaido, the opposition leader backed by the United States and most other Western countries.
Guaido had described the protests as the start of his “final phase” to oust Maduro, but mass military defections failed to come to fruition.
Guaido, the president of the country’s national assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution in January to declare himself interim president of the country, arguing that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Maduro – who has said Guaido is a puppet of Washington – has sought to show that the military remains on his side, but opposition leaders and U.S. officials have said that support is tenuous.
Pence will offer new “carrots” to the Venezuelan military, the senior official told Reuters, declining to provide details of the incentives ahead of the speech.
“He’ll be showing where the opportunities lay if people do the right thing moving forward,” the official said.
Pence is also set to outline new assistance for Venezuelans who have fled the oil-rich country, which has been plagued by shortages of food, water, power and medicine – and a “Day One” economic assistance plan for Venezuela contingent on Maduro’s departure, the official added.
The vice president in addition will deliver a “warning shot” to magistrates on Venezuela’s supreme court. The Treasury Department sanctioned the court’s president, Maikel Moreno, in 2017 and the seven principal members of its constitutional chamber – and is now preparing to sanction the 25 remaining members of the court, the official said.
“We feel like that’s where the pressure needs to be,” according to the official.
“All 32 magistrates in the TSJ are going to sink or swim together,” the official said, using the acronym for Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney