U.S. lifts sanctions on Venezuelan general

The Associated Press CARACAS (AP) — The United States has lifted sanctions on a top Venezuelan general who broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro, trying to help the opposition regain momentum in the face of a government crackdown following last week’s failed uprising.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech Tuesday that the immediate lifting of financial sanctions for Gen. Manuel Figuera, who was Venezuela’s spy chief, is intended to encourage others in the military to abandon their support for Maduro.

The move was a display of “good faith” designed to elicit “concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order” by dozens of other sanctioned Venezuelan insiders, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Figuera was the sole regime insider to defy Maduro during the uprising, although the White House contends several others, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, had had been in talks for weeks with the opposition to oust Maduro but backed away from the plan at the last minute.

As the United States looked to lure the Venezuelan military, which is the backbone of the embattled socialist administration, Maduro and his allies started going after opponents who supported the uprising.

On Tuesday, the country’s top court opened a criminal investigation against six opposition lawmakers for allegedly “betraying the homeland” and “instigating an insurrection,” among other charges. The pro-government Supreme Court said those facing accusations include prominent figures in the Venezuelan opposition such as Henry Ramos Allup and Luis Florido.

In his speech, Pence said the United States would extend sanctions to all 25 members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court if they continue to be a “political tool” of Maduro. The United States already has sanctions on about 150 officials and businesses in the country.

More than 3 million Venezuelans have left their homeland in recent years amid skyrocketing inflation and shortages of food and medicine, and Pence and other Trump administration officials have warned that 2 million more are expected to flee by the end of the year if the crisis continues in the oil-rich nation.

The opposition-controlled congress began discussions on a proposal for Venezuela’s return to a regional defense agreement that dates from the Cold War — a move that could provide political cover for greater international involvement in the nation’s crisis.Speech

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