Pence to rally support for Venezuela's Guaidó in Miami, official says

By Fin Gomez

/ CBS News

Maduro responds to protests in Caracas

Vice President Mike Pence will head to Miami on Friday to meet withmembers of the Venezuelan exile community and give robust remarks expressing the Trump administration's full backing of opposition leader Juan Guaidó over embattled Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, a White House official tells CBS News.

Last week, the United States recognized Guaidó as the rightful interim president and leader of the South American country, and 26 other countries soon followed. Pence "will rally support for the Venezuelan people and reiterate the steadfast support from the United States in their fight for freedom," the White House official said.

Pence will meet hold a roundtable at a local church in the Doral area of greater Miami, where many Venezuelan exiles have established themselves since the socialist government of Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor and mentor, came to power 20 years ago.

At Iglesia Doral Jesus Worship Center, the vice president will participate in a roundtable discussion with " Venezuelan exiles and community leaders including families, political prisoners and former elected officials who were forced to flee their country due to political persecution" according to a statement provided by the White House. He will then listen to the stories of the exiles and "their continuing efforts working to restore freedom and democracy in Venezuela."

U.S. imposes sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company

Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump spoke to Guaido, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

"Spoke today with Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaido to congratulate him on his historic assumption of the presidency and reinforced strong United States support for Venezuela's fight to regain its democracy," Mr. Trump said in a tweet Wednesday evening." Large protests all across Venezuela today against Maduro. The fight for freedom has begun!"

Maduro, however, has vowed to stay in power—at whatever means necessary. On Wednesday, in an interview with a Russian state-owned news agency, he cautioned Americans that U.S. intervention into Venezuela would "lead to a Vietnam worse than they can imagine."

Pence will be traveling with his wife, Karen Pence. Also attending the roundtable with the exile community will be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — all Republicans. Carlos Vecchio, who has been officially recognized by the Trump administration as the new Chargé d'Affaires for the Guaidó interim government, will also be participating.

First published on January 30, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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