MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now we go to Colombia. That country shares a border with Venezuela, where a power struggle continues between President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido. Power outages are compounding the suffering of people who were already living with shortages of food and medicine, and migrants are fleeing to Colombia to seek refuge. Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and he's visiting the area this weekend. He's with us now from Bogota, Colombia.
Welcome back, Senator. Thank you so much for joining us.
TIM KAINE: Glad to, Michel. Thank you.
MARTIN: Why did you decide to take this trip?
KAINE: Well, it's really necessary. First, the U.S.-Colombian relationship is one of the most important in this hemisphere. They've been a fantastic ally. We've worked so strongly with them to advance in recent years. And they've also done a really unbelievable job of welcoming this massive influx of refugees from Venezuela. So I wanted to thank them for that. But I wanted to go to the border, where I can spend time with representatives of the Guaido interim government just to assure them that the U.S. supports the Venezuelan people.
MARTIN: As you just mentioned, Colombia has been feeling the effects of the conflict in Venezuela. Can you just tell us a little bit about what you've been seeing?
KAINE: Colombia's dealing with trying to put into place a very ambitious peace deal that would end a 50-year civil war that involves heavy investments. And so when you add to that financial burden of something they were already trying to do caring for more than a million refugees who've now come across the border who need medicine, who need schools, who need food - you're talking about a U.S. ally that has opened their doors but really, really needs our support. And that's what we're seeing.
MARTIN: Is there something specific that you're hoping to accomplish with this trip? Because, you know, as I think many people know, in the region, even within the United States, there's a difference of opinion about what the U.S. role should be. I mean, on the one hand, people are suffering greatly. I think most people know that, and they feel that, you know, misgovernance is the cause of this and that, you know, aid should go in. On the other hand, there are still quite a few people who are very suspicious of any U.S. involvement. Is there some specific thing you're hoping to accomplish on this trip? Like, how will you know if this trip has been a success?
KAINE: The good news is, there is quite a bipartisan accord on a number of things. One, that it's a human rights disaster in Venezuela because of mismanagement of that country's governance by Maduro, that the Venezuelan National Assembly, pursuant to their own constitution, has declared a vacancy in the presidential office, which they are allowed to do because of electoral irregularities. And under the Venezuelan Constitution, the assembly's leader, Juan Guaido, becomes an interim president. The United States has recognized him, as have democracies around the world.
I think the key thing that I hope to see, being at the border, is, what is the best way for the U.S. and other nations to provide humanitarian assistance? That is something that we're doing, the U.S. and other nations. And the U.S. is investing heavily. There may be better ways to do it, to get even more aid directly to the Venezuelan people. And I think that's the thing I most want to see.
MARTIN: Do you have any plans to meet with any representatives of the Maduro administration?
KAINE: I will not meet with any representatives of the Maduro administration. I will both meet with and have telephone conversations with the representations of the Guaido interim government that the United States has recognized.
MARTIN: Because you agree that the Maduro administration is no longer legitimate. Is that your view?
KAINE: That is my view. Based under the Venezuelan Constitution, Juan Guaido is the interim president of the country.
MARTIN: Is there any appetite for the use of the U.S. military to ensure that that aid is delivered?
KAINE: I don't think that's what the United States should be talking about. What we're interested in is peace and liberty and democracy for the Venezuelan people.
MARTIN: And when you come back, your mission will be what?
KAINE: Well, twofold - we are spending a lot of time on the Foreign Relations Committee right now talking about whether, for example, sanctions, policies are precise enough to punish perpetrators of human rights violations without affecting the Venezuelan people. And we're spending a lot of time talking about the best way to deliver humanitarian aid. These are items that are budgetary, and they're also items that are key to the diplomacy in the hemisphere. And the timing is right. We're having those discussions already. I just wanted to make sure as a member of those committees I was as informed by the reality on the ground as I need to be to make good decisions or be a good advocate for helping the Venezuelan people.
MARTIN: That's Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat from Virginia, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was kind of to join us from Bogota, Colombia.
Senator, thank you so much for talking to us.
KAINE: Absolutely, Michel.
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