- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that the U.S. will spend an additional $16 million for Venezuelan refugees.

Arriving at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, Mr. Pence met with Venezuelan opposition leaders and made the pledge for increased humanitarian aid. Mr. Pence is attending the summit instead of President Trump, who skipped the event to focus on the military response to Syria and other matters.

Mr. Pence said socialist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “has turned Venezuela democracy into a dictatorship.” He decried the humanitarian conditions there, including food shortages and political persecution, saying Mr. Maduro has unleashed “a wave of corruption, crime and abject misery.”

“Under President Donald Trump, we want one message to be clear: We are with the people of Venezuela,” Mr. Pence said. “We oppose the tyranny, the oppression, the dictatorship, the corruption. We are with the people of Venezuela and will continue to do everything in our power to provide sustenance and support to those who have fled.”

The money from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development includes a contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ regional response to the Venezuela crisis and humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and host communities in Colombia and Brazil.

An economic collapse in Venezuela is driving about 100,000 people per month to flee the country controlled by Mr. Maduro.

The State Department said the aid will help provide Venezuelan refugees with safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, shelter, work and education opportunities and protection from violence, in coordination with other humanitarian organizations and government partners.

The funding is in addition to the $2.5 million for emergency food and health assistance that the U.S. provided last month, and the more than $3 million donated to the UNHCR for Venezuelans in fiscal year 2017.

The total U.S. humanitarian response to the Venezuela crisis comes to more than $21 million since FY 2017.

Mr. Pence hinted at more aid and pressure to come.

“The U.S. and our allies, I believe are prepared to do much more” to help the Venezuelan people, he said, but Mr. Maduro is blocking aid. “Nicolas Maduro stands in the way, refusing humanitarian aid to be delivered to Venezuela, and the world deserves to know that,” the vice president said.

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