The Trump administration opened a double-barreled critique on Monday of what it described as a limp European response to the crisis in Venezuela, renewing demands for tougher sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro’s government and more aid for refugees, the New York Times reported.
The broadsides, delivered as leaders arrived for the annual United Nations General Assembly, sought to re-energize global support for Venezuelan opposition leaders who have been trying since January to oust Maduro from power.
Several European officials agreed that far more needed to be done to help the nearly seven million Venezuelans in desperate need of food, safe water and medical supplies. But they stopped far short of embracing any new sanctions against Maduro and his loyalists, including some who have assets in Europe.
The numbers of refugees fleeing Venezuela, expected to grow to five million by the end of 2019, “are terrifying,” Edita Hrda, a European Union diplomat, told an Atlantic Council forum in New York. But she said attention to Venezuela largely has been limited to the Western Hemisphere, and noted that plans to broaden assistance would be a focus of a conference in Brussels in late October.
That drew a retort from John Barsa, who oversees assistance to Venezuela for the United States Agency for International Development. He described meeting a pregnant Venezuelan woman last month in a Colombian border town who needed care. “The first thing coming out of her mouth was not ‘How’s the conference planning going?’” Barsa said.
Acording to the New York Times, he said the Western Hemisphere “has never seen human suffering on such a staggering level. The international community cannot turn a blind eye to this human tragedy.”
Hours later, top diplomats from the United States and Latin America voted to begin a legal process, based in the so-called Rio Treaty, a regional security compact, to impose additional regional sanctions against Maduro’s government. The Trump administration endorsed the use of the Rio Treaty earlier this month. The last time it was invoked was after the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Of the 19 nations that are signatories to the treaty, 16 voted on Monday to broadly investigate and penalize people connected to Maduro’s government who are accused of money laundering, illegal drug trafficking, terrorism and transnational organized crime.