- Pence was addressing the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America
- His strong condemnation of Venezuela drew applause from the audience
Pence was addressing the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America organized by the State Department, Homeland Security Department and Mexico, speaking before a room full of leaders of Central American countries that have had their own struggles with violence, cartels, poverty and drug trafficking.
"We need only look to the nation of Venezuela to see what happens when democracy is undermined," Pence said during his address on the importance of cooperation and increasing security in the Northern Triangle region of Central America.
"That once rich nation's collapse into authoritarianism has pushed it into poverty and caused untold suffering for the Venezuelan people," he continued. "We must all raise our voices to condemn the Venezuelan government for its abuse of power and abuse of its own people and we must do it now."
Pence's strong condemnation of Venezuela drew applause from the audience.
Unrest has gripped the country for months, with dozens killed and hundreds more injured. Food shortages, soaring prices and inflation have ravaged the country, as protesters have demanded elections to replace President Nicolas Maduro, the political heir to former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Pence urged the Central Americans gathered to work on their own democracies to set an example.
"Across the wider region, we must show Venezuela and its people that there is a better path: the path of democracy, of justice," Pence said. "And above all we must show Venezuela that freedom is the only path to true prosperity and a brighter future for their people. We must always remember that security is the foundation of prosperity."
Later in the day the White House released a statement on the conference that addressed Venezuela: "The President remains greatly concerned about the situation faced by the Venezuelan people and has instructed Secretary Tillerson to collaborate with countries in the region to move discussions on Venezuela forward during this important meeting. The United States stands with the people of Venezuela during these sad and troubling times for their country."