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Trump: U.S., Colombia working together on Venezuela

By Danielle Haynes
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Trump: U.S., Colombia working together on Venezuela
President Donald J. Trump (R) shakes hands with Colombian President Ivan Duque (L) during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on Wednesday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 13 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump and Colombian President Iván Duque promised to work together to end the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela during a meeting Wednesday at the White House.

It was Duque's first official visit to Washington, D.C., since he was elected leader in August. Trump said their main topic of conversation would be Venezuela, where President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly leader -- and self-declared president -- Juan Guaido are locked in a power struggle.

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"Our militaries are very focused and working together," Trump said of U.S. and Colombian forces.

Trump said all options are still on the table in dealing with Venezuela, but he declined to say whether he was considering sending troops to the Central American country.

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On Jan. 23, Trump said he no longer recognized Maduro as president of Venezuela and said he considers Guaido the interim president.

Maduro won snap elections in May amid an election boycott by opponents. The United States, European Union and neighboring Latin American countries called the election a fraud. Protesters opposed to Maduro's election support Guaido and want him to lead a transitional government until new elections are held.

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Duque said he supports putting an end "to the brutal dictatorship that has been affecting the Venezuelan people." Venezuelans have endured years of rising inflation and a shortage of food and basic necessities.

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"And I think the days for this dictatorship are about to end, and we have to continue working on that," Duque said. "President Guaido, who is the person about to lead this transition in Venezuela, has a strong support and we need to give him even stronger support."

U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams testifies during a House foreign affairs committee hearing on Venezuela on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

As Trump and Duque discussed the crisis in Venezuela, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs questioned Elliott Abrams, special representative for Venezuela, Sandra Oudkirk, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Energy Resources, and Steve Olive, acting assistant administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, on the conflict.

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Abrams told the panel that U.S. sanctions on Venezuela's gold and oil markets have "created enormous pressure on Maduro and his band of thieves. We've frozen bank accounts. We have revoked visas of those who benefit from their corruption and complicity."

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Abrams had a tense exchange with Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who questioned why the committee should believe any of his testimony given that he pleaded guilty to withholding evidence on the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s.

"I don't understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful," she said.

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Abrams called her line of questioning an "attack."

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the committee, said he worries about Trump's reluctance to rule out military intervention.

"I want to make clear to our witnesses and to anyone else watching: U.S. military intervention is not an option," he said, adding that the United States must consider potential repercussions.

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