Latest Developments In Venezuela's Deepening Crisis It was a deadly weekend after the Venezuelan government cracked down on demonstrators and volunteers who tried to carry U.S. humanitarian aid into the country against the president's orders.
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Latest Developments In Venezuela's Deepening Crisis

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Latest Developments In Venezuela's Deepening Crisis

Latest Developments In Venezuela's Deepening Crisis

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Vice President Mike Pence is traveling to Colombia today. He's going to be meeting with the Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and also with Latin American leaders to talk about the deepening crisis in Venezuela. Over the weekend, clashes between protesters and the military on the border left several people dead. The United States has been pushing to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power. And speaking to Fox News yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that all options remain on the table for the United States.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

MIKE POMPEO: We're going to do the things that need to be done to make sure that the Venezuelan people's voice - that democracy reigns and that there's a brighter future for the people of Venezuela.

CHRIS WALLACE: All right.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Eyder Peralta is on the line from Caracas. He's been covering this crisis.

Hi, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: Let me just ask you about this crackdown that we saw that caused several deaths.

PERALTA: Yeah. So we're about a month into this experiment since Juan Guaido declared himself president. And over the past two weeks, they have been building people up to this weekend. They - the opposition said they would bring in tons of aid, and they hoped that the military would turn their backs on Maduro. But only little bits of aid came in, and more than 150 soldiers have defected. But by and large, what we've seen over the past two days is real repression. The military fired tear gas, and paramilitary groups attacked protesters. And so the government is claiming victory. They say they were able to repel a foreign invasion. But it's important to note that the opposition says they see the government reaction as an opportunity, that the regime has shown its repressive, cynical face to the world. And they hope that this helps the international community further coalesce around them.

GREENE: And so what is the mood on the streets? I mean, are they still with the opposition and hoping that they continue forward?

PERALTA: Yeah. I think people are definitely still in on this fight. But they're really frustrated, and they're tired. And a lot of them this weekend picked up and went to the beach, so I drove out there. It's about 45 minutes from here. Let's listen.

La Guaira is a popular beach just on the other side of a mountain range from Caracas. I find Carolina (ph), Miriam (ph) and Maria (ph) eating some chips, taking some sun. They work for the government, so they didn't want me to use their full names because they fear losing their jobs.

MIRIAM: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: Miriam called everyone last night and planned a beach outing to de-stress. Carolina had one request - no one talks politics.

CAROLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: Talking about politics here, she says, is so infuriating it can kill. But ignoring politics is impossible. Carolina, is 28 and has lived most of her life under a socialist rule. She loved the late leader Hugo Chavez, but now she's fine with a foreign invasion or, she says, the opposition should ditch diplomacy and send people out to the streets permanently.

CAROLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "If they tell us to be out in the streets for 30 days without eating to oust this government, we'd all be out there," she says.

CAROLINA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "We'd all be out there," she says, "because us poor people have reached a breaking point. But the opposition is moving too slowly."

So David, these women on the beach, they represent the frustration I've heard over and over again. People are hurting, and they want change fast.

GREENE: Well, what role might the United States play in that - because you have Vice President Mike Pence coming to the region to talk about the future? What does this meeting mean?

PERALTA: Vice President Mike Pence is coming to the meeting today with a message that all options are on the table. But does it mean more diplomatic moves? Or does it mean what everyone here is talking about, which is a first step toward authorizing a military intervention in Venezuela? What is clear is that the U.S. and its allies want President Nicolas Maduro out.

GREENE: All right, NPR's Eyder Peralta reporting on this crisis in Venezuela. He's in Caracas for us this morning.

Eyder, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.

PERALTA: Thank you, David.

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