WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence plans to have his first meeting with Venezuela’s Juan Guaido in Colombia on Monday, Pence aides said, in a signal of support for the opposition leader after a weekend of violence.
On Saturday, troops loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro blocked convoys of U.S. humanitarian aid from crossing from Colombia to Venezuela, using teargas and rubber bullets and killing two protesters.
The violence could lead the United States to impose new sanctions as early as Monday to cut off the Maduro’s government access to revenues.
Pence is traveling to the Colombian capital Bogota to meet with the Lima Group of regional leaders who recognize Guaido as the legitimate leader of Venezuela after Maduro held elections last year which were dismissed as fraudulent.
A senior U.S. official told reporters on Friday that Pence would be prepared to announce new sanctions at the meeting if the aid was turned back, - adding to pressure from sanctions on state-owned oil company PDVSA.
“If there is any type of violence, or if there is any type of negative reaction from the hierarchy of the Venezuela armed forces, there may also be measures that are announced by the vice president and other countries in regards to closing even further the international financial circle,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The United States and allies are looking at ways to expel family members of Venezuelan military officials who are living outside the country, including some in south Florida, the official said.
Maduro has denied there are shortages of food and medicine in Venezuela, and says the aid is aimed at undermining his government.
Pence spoke to Guaido by phone in January before the opposition leader, who heads Venezuela’s national assembly, swore himself in as interim president.
Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell