WASHINGTON, D.C. – The crisis in Venezuela and drug trafficking topped the agenda at President Donald Trump's meeting Monday at the White House with Colombia President Iván Duque.
Venezuela once was among Latin America's richest nations, sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves. But it has been on a steady downward spiral into social and economic crisis in recent years. Despite the decline, President Nicolás Maduro has managed to stay in power despite the attempts of U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó to overthrow him.
“One of the things we're talking about is Venezuela — a big subject for us,” Trump said. “And they're treating the people of Venezuela unbelievably badly. They don't have water. They don't have food. They don't have anything.”
Venezuela's crisis has driven more than 4.5 million people to flee the nation. They're escaping inflation, which has left the monthly minimum wage equivalent to roughly $4, and shortages of basic goods, such as medicine.
Colombia has taken in at least 1.6 million Venezuelan migrants and Duque has been an outspoken critic of Maduro and called for strong sanctions against the Maduro administration in Venezuela.
“It's very important that we are stronger on sanctions against a dictatorship in Venezuela,” Duque said. “Venezuela is running out of things. They have destroyed all the healthcare system. So we have to, in this year, work together jointly so there's a political and democratic transition that is effective in Venezuela.”
Maduro cut diplomatic ties with Colombia early last year after it threw its support to Guaidó along with the United States and nearly 60 other nations.
Duque has a full slate of meetings in Washington with Trump administration officials and business leaders. He also addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.