US helps LA nations pass anti-Venezuela sanctions

US President Donald Trump is prepping a team of lawyers and policy experts to help right-wing Latin American governments write new laws imposing sanctions on Venezuelan officials and industries, a US source familiar with the policies told McClatchy News' Washington Bureau.

The push is part of Washington’s economic and political war against the left-wing government that aims to undermine Venezuela’s democracy and oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The source revealed the White House has been mounting pressure on its Latin American and Caribbean allies to target Venezuela, which is facing economic troubles due to US and European sanctions. 

“They don’t have the authority,” a senior administration official told McClatchy about Latin American nations passing sanctions targeting officials and industries. “So what we really have to do is help these countries write laws that give them jurisdiction to carry out these kind of sanctions if they choose to.”

According to the report, US diplomats have been making concerted efforts to “encourage allies to reform their laws aimed at ousting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro”.

“They’re urging Latin American leaders to join the United States, Canada and European allies who have worked together to starve the oil-dependent Caracas government of desperately needed cash,” McClatchy noted. 

The senior official did not reveal the names of the countries the US is pressing, but reaffirmed “the effort is modelled on past work by previous administrations to help allies draft laws” in countries like Syria and Iraq.

The US has imposed sanctions on Venezuela in an attempt to further paralyse its economy. As part of US-imposed sanctions, more than 20 current and former Venezuelan officials have been sanctioned, including Maduro.

The White House has barred US banks from loaning Venezuela any money, also sanctioning the recently launched “Petro”, Venezuela's national cryptocurrency based on natural resources.

“Countries in the Americas have a responsibility to work together to address the humanitarian crisis that’s been created by the Maduro regime in Venezuela,” another senior administration official said.

The White House, National Security Council, State Department and Treasury Department are also working on options to “help drive Maduro from office, including prohibiting any Venezuelan oil being sold in the United States”, the report claimed.

In March, Panama’s Economic and Finance Ministry issued a warning to the country’s banks that Maduro and more than 50 other Venezuelan nationals were considered “high risk” for laundering money and financing terrorism. These claims are flatly denied by Venezuela’s socialist government and are based on no evidence.

Peru’s so-called Lima Group, which includes other right-wing governments of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia, has publicly demanded Maduro allow “free elections” and release “political prisoners”.

The Venezuelan government began dialogue and peace talks with the opposition in the Dominican Republic late last year, which ended in January with opposition parties failing to sign the final agreement, under pressure from Washington.

One opposition demands was calling for early presidential elections, which the government announced for May 20. However, despite demanding this, the main opposition coalition has refused to take part.

[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]

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