Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday appointed Elliott Abrams, who served in senior foreign policy positions under former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, to oversee the Trump administration's policy toward the escalating crisis in Venezuela.
"Elliott's passion for the rights and liberties of all peoples makes him a perfect fit and a valuable and timely addition," Pompeo said at a press briefing, noting that Abrams' duties will begin immediately.
Pompeo said that he and Abrams will travel to the United Nations Security Council on Saturday. The United States has called a meeting of the Security Council, where they hope to persuade other countries to recognize Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan legislature, as the country's president. Guaidó declared himself president, while dictator Nicolás Maduro, who the U.S. now recognizes as an illegitimate leader, is fighting to stay in power.
"Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country," Pompeo said. "On this issue, and all others, he is eager to advance President Trump's agenda and to promote the ideals and interests of the American people."
Abrams served in several senior roles in the State Department during the Reagan administration and as a deputy national security adviser to George W. Bush, among other high-level jobs. Before taking on his new role as special envoy for Venezuela, he worked as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"This crisis in Venezuela is deep and difficult and dangerous, and I can't wait to get to work on it," Abrams said Friday.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) expressed his support for Pompeo's choice on Twitter.
Elliott Abrams brings deep expertise to Secretary Pompeo’s team at a critical time. I thank him for returning to public service to support the Venezuelan people standing up to Maduro's outlaw regime.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) January 25, 2019
Pompeo also addressed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela, which has faced economic turmoil and social unrest under Maduro's socialist government. Pompeo praised the Venezuelan people for rejecting "former President Nicolás Maduro's illegitimate rule." Pompeo also praised Guaidó, calling his ascent, in conjunction with the fall of Maduro, "just the first steps on Venezuela's road to liberty."
Protests and violence erupted in Venezuela this week, after Maduro was sworn in for a second term as president. Dozens of countries, including the United States, have accused Maduro of stealing the election.
After declaring himself interim president, Guaidó addressed crowds of anti-Maduro protesters on Friday.
"The people who think that we are going to fizzle, I think they are not going to be happy," he said. "There are people here in the streets for a long time."