Pence defends Trump's Venezuela stance

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US Vice President Mike Pence speaking in Cartagena, Colombia 13 August 2017Image source, AFP

US Vice President Mike Pence has defended Donald Trump's comments that military intervention could be used to solve the crisis in Venezuela.

At the beginning of a regional tour, he said President Trump was showing "his resolve not to stand by and let a neighbour collapse into dictatorship".

Mr Pence said the US would use its "full economic and diplomatic weight to help restore democracy in Venezuela".

He was speaking in the Colombian city of Cartagena.

Mr Pence said the US would involve countries across the world to pressure the Venezuelan government to allow elections.

When asked by reporters whether pressure would include oil sanctions, Mr Pence said the US was looking at a "full range of economic sanctions" .

Many analysts have questioned the timing of President Trump's comments last Friday, ahead of Mr Pence's visit.

The statement was immediately rejected from all quarters in Latin America.

The opposition MUD coalition in Venezuela which has organised months of protests in favour of elections said the only way forward was to "re-establish democracy through free and fair elections".

There was also criticism from the South American trade bloc, Mercosur and individually from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru - some of Venezuela's severest critics.

There were also concerns that Mr Trump might have weakened regional pressure on the Venezuelan government by giving President Nicolás Maduro a chance to intensify his frequently made allegations that the US is plotting with the opposition calling for his removal.

Mr Maduro has consistently argued that the US is trying to remove him to get hold of Venezuela's oil reserves - the largest in the world.