Moments before Vice President Mike Pence took to the podium in Baker Hall’s stately Doré Commons, against a backdrop of a royal blue curtain and U.S. and Texas flags, Carlos Vecchio, the ambassador of Venezuela’s opposition government to the U.S., spontaneously roused the audience with patriotic cheers and clapping.
Vice President Mike Pence said that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “must go” because of the “suffering he has brought” to the people of that country. Photos by Jeff Fitlow
The moment set the tone for Pence’s roughly 30-minute speech to a capacity, invitation-only audience of more than 300 people in which he outlined the Trump administration’s policy on Venezuela and the U.S.’s efforts to restore the South American country’s freedom, democracy and rule of law.
The vice president was introduced by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, the honorary chair of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Pence is “a model vice president and a strong and effective advocate for the conservative policies advanced by the White House,” said Baker, who also served as chief of staff to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. “Today, he is one of President Trump’s most active international spokesmen, one who delivers the president’s ‘America First’ agenda in a resolute voice. In just two years, he has made at least 10 diplomatic trips to six continents.”
Pence repeatedly called for incumbent President Nicolas Maduro’s exit and said “libertad” — freedom — can’t be restored to Venezuela until then.
“So as we gather here at Rice University — one of the great institutions of higher learning in America — we do well to focus on freedom — freedom across this hemisphere and our own,” Pence said.
The vice president’s April 4 visit came at a time of growing political turmoil for the South American …