U.S. Calls for Broad Venezuela Transitional Government

The Trump administration is calling for a transitional government in Venezuela made up of the opposition and some members of President Nicolas Maduro’s Socialist Party and is laying out for the first time how U.S. sanctions might eventually be lifted, including on the vital oil sector, Reuters informs.

With the South American nation squeezed by a U.S. economic pressure campaign, low world oil prices and a spreading coronavirus pandemic, Washington was set on Tuesday to unveil a more toned-down approach aimed at promoting fair elections this year to end the political crisis there, U.S. officials said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to announce the administration’s “Democratic Transition Framework” for Venezuela, which, according to a document seen by Reuters, offers a detailed, “sequenced exit path” from tough U.S. sanctions if Maduro and his allies cooperate.

But it will be no easy task to draw Maduro, who has held onto power despite a steady escalation of U.S. efforts to oust him, into a process of political reconciliation.

The initiative comes less than a week after the U.S. government took a more confrontational tack, indicting Maduro and more than a dozen other current and former top Venezuelan officials on charges of “narco-terrorism,” accusations he dismissed as false and racist. [nL1N2BJ17X]

Maduro’s staying power has become a source of frustration for President Donald Trump, U.S. officials have said privately. Maduro retains the backing of the military as well as Russia, China and Cuba.

“The regime is now under heavier pressure than it has ever been,” U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams told Reuters, previewing the plan. “Maybe this pressure will lead to a serious discussion within the regime.”

The U.S. proposal, which Abrams said was approved by Trump, calls for Maduro to “step aside” and for the opposition-controlled National Assembly “to elect an inclusive transitional government acceptable to the major factions” and then oversee elections in late 2020.

But in what appears to be a softening of the U.S. tone toward Maduro, Abrams said the plan did not call for him to be forced into exile and even suggested that he “could theoretically run” in the election.

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