A Frustrated Trump Contemplates More Sanctions Against Venezuela | International

Donald Trump is losing confidence that the Venezuelan opposition leader, backed by his administration, can overthrow the regime of Nicol谩s Maduro. The main advisers of the president of the United States now consider new and more aggressive strategies, according to people familiar with the matter.

Read: (US surprises with new conditions for transition in Venezuela)

Vice President Mike Pence led a meeting last Thursday with other senior officials to reassess the annual momentum of the White House in the face of a democratic transition in the South American nation, four of the people said.

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Juan Guaid贸, the leader of the National Assembly who declared himself interim president of Venezuela with US support. UU. Earlier this year, he has so far failed to expel Maduro and US officials fear he may soon lose his official position.

No military option is being considered, but White House officials have discussed new approaches, including an attempt to partner with Russia, Maduro's ally, to discreetly remove the Venezuelan leader, or increase pressure on Cuba, Maduro's main sponsor.

During the Pence meeting in the White House Crisis Room, officials also briefly covered, but eventually ruled out, the idea of 鈥嬧媡aking strong measures against Venezuelan oil imports by India, an important financial lifeline for the regime from Maduro.

The discussions illustrate Trump's problem in Venezuela, where he began an aggressive campaign to expel Maduro at the end of 2018 under the direction of his then national security adviser, John Bolton.

The president is frustrated because the Venezuelan leader was not removed from power as quickly as Trump believed Bolton had announced, and is also aware of the political ramifications, the people said: Venezuelan expatriates are an important electorate in Florida, the central state of Trump in his re-election campaign.

FULLY SOLIDARY

Bolton left the administration in September after a confrontation with Trump and his replacement, Robert O'Brien, has been responsible for developing a new strategy for Venezuela.

Elliott Abrams, special representative of the State Department for Venezuela, said Guaid贸 "remains the most popular official in Venezuela and the US continues to fully support him and the National Assembly in his effort to restore democracy in Venezuela." "If the US can do more to support that goal, we will undoubtedly try to do so, along with the other 60 countries that recognize Guaid贸 as legitimate interim president," he added.

An administration official said the US government. UU. continues to review the full range of options to advance what is called a "maximum pressure" campaign against the Maduro regime, and that the US UU. He stands firm with Guaid贸. The official asked not to be identified because the discussions have not been public.

However, after failing to usurp Maduro in an uprising in the first half, Guaid贸 is losing political capital. At the beginning of last week, the Venezuelan legislature began an investigation into the possible influence peddling among opposition legislators. On January 5, the National Assembly will vote if Guaid贸 remains its president. A spokesman for Guaido said the leader of the National Assembly declined to comment.

PRESSURE CAMPAIGN

While Washington has lines of communication with others in the opposition, the defeat of Guaid贸 would be shameful after the administration brought together more than 60 nations to support the 36-year-old leader in his claim to the Venezuelan presidency.

Regardless of the political future of Guaido, Trump and his advisors have determined that there is only one credible US approach. UU .: more aggressive efforts to pressure Maduro.

The White House has rejected the suggestions of a power-sharing agreement between Maduro and Guaid贸 or mediation led by third countries.

A second administration official said the only solution to the Venezuelan crisis is for Maduro to peacefully abandon power. It is not clear how the US UU. I could put more pressure on Venezuela directly, especially without harming Maduro's opposition. Senior officials of the Maduro regime have already been sanctioned by the US. The United States, like the nation's oil industry, which represents approximately 99% of Venezuela's export earnings.

Therefore, the Trump administration has considered increasing pressure on countries that still do business with Venezuela, particularly Cuba, Maduro's main benefactor and former US adversary.

While former President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Havana, he eased US travel restrictions. UU. to the country and even made a historic visit to the country itself, Trump has gradually withdrawn many of those gestures of goodwill and tension has increased in the US campaign against Maduro.

Meanwhile, US officials say they stay in touch with some of Maduro's intimate circle in hopes of convincing them to change sides, and more aggressive sanctions are coming. None of the strategies have worked. In late April, a planned military revolt against Maduro proved counterproductive, forcing opposition lawmakers to hide, while sanctions have been criticized because they affect vulnerable Venezuelans.

Bloomberg

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