Pence praises Argentina as a model partner while raising pressure on Venezuela
Vice President Pence celebrated Argentina as a model for a prosperous Latin America and vowed additional U.S. trade partnerships here Tuesday while also seeking to further isolate Venezuela and pressure its autocratic leader to reverse course and restore democracy there.
Delivering the centerpiece speech of his week-long visit to South and Central America, Pence on Tuesday declared “the dawn of a new era in the New World.” He carried a message of unity here to Buenos Aires and promoted economic and security ties between the Trump administration and Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s government.
“A secure Latin America means a more secure United States of America,” Pence said. “A prosperous Latin America means a more prosperous United States of America. And the advance of freedom and democracy in Latin America benefits the cause of freedom everywhere.”
Pence singled out one exception: Venezuela, the South American country where President Nicolás Maduro has precipitated an economic collapse and drawn international scorn by cracking down on dissent and asserting his autocratic rule.
“Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, and as President Donald Trump has said, the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,” Pence said.
Pence sought to soothe U.S. allies across the hemisphere, including Argentina, that reacted with alarm to Trump’s threat late last week that the United States was considering military action in Venezuela.
As he did earlier in the week in Cartagena, Colombia, Pence made clear that the Trump administration would focus on diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions, although all options — including military ones — remain on the table.
“As President Trump said just a few days ago, we have many options for Venezuela,” Pence said in Buenos Aires. “But the president also remains confident that working with all of our allies across Latin America, and across the wider world, that we can achieve a peaceable solution restoring democracy and ending the crisis facing the people of Venezuela.”
Pence delivered his speech from the Bolsa de Comercio, the old stock exchange building in downtown Buenos Aires, following a busy day of official events. Pence met with Macri at the presidential residence, Quinta de Olivos, where the two leaders held a joint news conference.
Macri, who has a personal relationship with Trump dating back many years, distanced himself from the U.S. president’s military threat in Venezuela. Standing next to Pence, Macri said, “We must refine diplomatic and economic skills in order to ensure that a democracy is restored as quickly as possible.”
He added: “The way to go is not the use of force.”
Pence also met with Argentina’s vice president, Gabriela Michetti, at the stately Casa Rosada, or the Pink House, which serves as the seat of Argentina’s national government and the building from which Eva “Evita” Perón would address the masses from a balcony during the 1940s and ’50s.
Pence also toured the Metropolitan Cathedral, the 16th-century house of worship where Pope Francis served as an archbishop before his promotion to the Vatican. Pence paid his respects at a memorial inside the cathedral for the victims of the 1992 Israeli Embassy bombing.
“The threat of terror still looms across our hemisphere, and we will stand together to confront it and protect our people from it,” Pence said in his remarks at the old stock exchange. “And so, too, must we stand together to defeat the most immediate threat to Latin America’s security and prosperity — the menace of transnational crime.”
Pence is planning to travel Wednesday to Santiago, Chile, for a day of official meetings, and then visit Panama City on Thursday to tour the newly expanded Panama Canal.
Venezuela has been a core focus of Pence’s trip. He spoke extensively about the Maduro government while visiting neighboring Colombia, and met at a Cartagena church on Monday with dozens of Venezuelan refugees who had fled the country in recent weeks.
“We are seeing tragedy of tyranny play out before our eyes in our own hemisphere,” Pence said Tuesday in Buenos Aires.