Washington: The US on Tuesday announced that it was lifting sanctions imposed on Venezuela’s former intelligence chief General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, who broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro’s regime and pledged his support to the country’s opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Making the announcement, US Vice President Mike Pence said that the US would remove the sanctions “for all those who step forward.”
“The United States of America will consider sanctions relief for all those who step forward, stand up for the Constitution and support the rule of law,” The New York Times quoted Pence while speaking at the annual Washington Conference on the Americas.
Pence said that the US, which was the first country to recognise Guaido, as the interim President of Venezuela, was sending a naval hospital ship called ‘Comfort’ to Central and South America on a five-month mission from next month to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuelan refugees.
Reiterating that Maduro should step down, Pence said, “We will continue to stand with the people of Venezuela until ‘libertad’ (freedom in Spanish) is restored. Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go.”
Pence’s comments came as Venezuela’s top court ordered the prosecution of seven lawmakers accused of participating in a failed military uprising led by Guaido.
Venezuela is currently in the throes of a political crisis, which is worsened by hyperinflation, blackouts, and an acute shortage of water and medicines.
Guaido had declared himself as the President of Venezuela during mass protests in January — a move which was immediately backed by the US.
He currently enjoys recognition as the official interim President of Venezuela by over 50 countries, including France, Japan, UK, the US amongst others.
Even though there have been recurring calls for Maduro to resign — after calls to hold fresh elections failed — the leftist leader continues to hold on to his post, claiming that he enjoys the steadfast support of the Venezuelan armed forces.
Washington has also issued multiple sanctions against Venezuela, in a bid to stifle economic support to the government which continues to be headed by Maduro.
Several countries called for Maduro to step down or hold fresh elections, as they largely view the elections which brought the 56-year-old leader to power as rigged.
However, China, Russia, and other countries have slammed international interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs, throwing their weight behind Maduro.