Senior Trump administration officials discussed plans to “increase pressure” over the coming year on Venezuela’s embattled ruler, Nicolás Maduro, with top opposition leaders at the State Department this week, Colombian and Venezuelan opposition officials confirmed to McClatchy and el Nuevo Herald.
The State Department hosted four of Venezuela’s largest opposition parties, starting with one-on-one sessions that began earlier this week before all the parties gathered together on Wednesday.
One source said the administration plans to “pour more coal into the fire” with stronger, more complex sanctions that will further isolate Maduro from an axis of nations supporting him.
Trump’s team is examining ways to leverage the Rio Treaty, invoked by hemispheric allies in September, to compound pressure on the authoritarian strongman.
“The steps that will be taken by the United States during the next year were discussed,” said a high-ranking member of Guaidó’s international team, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“They laid out more sanctions and other types of steps they would take to increase the pressure on the regime, and other plans they are drafting to help Venezuela,” the source said. “They laid out all they are considering, in coordination with other countries, to strengthen the support of the Guaidó’s government.”
Colombia’s ambassador to the United States, Francisco Santos Calderón, confirmed the meetings occurred but declined to discuss what steps are under consideration by the Trump administration.
Calderón said that White House and State Department officials had expressed strong support for the Guaidó government in recent weeks, pushing back against reports of frustration within the Trump administration over Guaidó’s leadership.
The Trump administration has been attempting to pressure Maduro out of power for over a year. The Venezuelan ruler has presided over an unprecedented economic crisis, but has remained in power with the support of Russia and Cuba.
The United States and more than 50 countries recognize Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela.
A newly negotiated government funding compromise on Capitol Hill includes nearly a half-billion dollars in humanitarian aid to support Venezuelan refugees, and codifies new U.S. sanctions against the Maduro regime.
Asked whether Guaidó maintained full support from the White House, Calderón stated: “They’re still all-in.”
“Guaidó is still a very integral part of the solution,” Calderón said. “We have absolute confidence in him. The U.S. has absolute confidence in him.”
“But change is hard,” he continued. “Look at the conditions of Guaidó. He has no communications. So how do you mobilize?”
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