US VP Mike Pence urges Latin America to isolate Venezuela

US Vice President Mike Pence gives a statement after a meeting with Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno at the Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, on June 28, 2018.
US Vice President Mike Pence gives a statement after a meeting with Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno at the Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, on June 28, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

QUITO (REUTERS) - US Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to Ecuador on Thursday (June 28) urged Latin American countries to help isolate crisis-stricken Venezuela, an ideological adversary of Washington that is struggling under a severe and prolonged 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 socialist country because it is so difficult 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 US$2 million (S$2.7 million) in assistance to Ecuador to handle the growing influx of migrants, whose numbers are overwhelming social services agencies in countries all over Latin America.

On Wednesday (June 27), Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called Pence a "poisonous viper" and promised to defeat what he called efforts to overthrow his government.

Moreno said on Thursday that Ecuador was seeking to improve bilateral relations with the United States, which were tense during the decade-long rule of Moreno's predecessor Rafael Correa, a socialist ally of Maduro.

The two countries agreed to exchange information regarding drug trafficking and international organised crime, cooperation that Correa halted while in office.

Moreno stopped short of agreeing to isolate Caracas, instead urging involvement by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

"We believe that the solution for Venezuela can only be provided by Venezuelans," he said.

Moreno said Ecuador had taken in nearly 150,000 Venezuelan citizens and was concerned about the "humanitarian crisis"there.

The United Nations has estimated that close to one million Venezuelans left their country between 2015 and 2017, driven by hunger, joblessness and the rising incidence of preventable disease.

Maduro has said the country's situation is the result of an"economic war" being waged against it by opposition politicians with the help of Washington.