The Trump administration announced Tuesday it had removed sanctions on Venezuelan General Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera after he publicly broke ranks with dictator Nicolas Maduro.
The top-ranked intelligence official wrote a letter last week saying it was time to "rebuild the country." Although he didn't explicitly name opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and dozens of allies have recognized as the country's legitimate president, Figuera said in the letter "the time has come to seek new ways of doing politics."
Vice President Mike Pence announced the lifting of sanctions against him Tuesday and the U.S. Treasury Department released a statement shortly afterward.
"In recognition of his recent actions in support of democracy and the rule of law, I am announcing today that the United States of America is removing all sanctions on Manuel Cristopher Figuera, effective immediately," Pence said.
Pence added he hoped the decision would embolden other Venezuelans to take similar steps, as the Trump administration continues to call for Maduro to step down and allow Guaido to properly lead the country.
In recognition of his recent actions in support of democracy & the rule of law, the U.S. is removing all sanctions on General Manuel Cristopher Figuera effective immediately. #VenezuelaLibre pic.twitter.com/6sBgnV1ua4
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 7, 2019
"The delisting of Cristopher also shows the good faith of the United States that removal of sanctions may be available for designated persons who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the illegitimate Maduro regime, or combat corruption in Venezuela," the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Treasury removes sanctions imposed on former high-ranking Venezuelan intelligence official after public break with Maduro and rallied to the support of the Venezuelan constitution and National Assembly https://t.co/rzJY5znuT6
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) May 7, 2019
Under Maduro's socialist government, the Venezuelan economy has collapsed, with mass starvation, medical shortages and violence ensuing as a result. Maduro has cracked down on protesters against his authoritarian regime and managed to hold onto power thanks to support from top military members, as well as Russia and Cuba.
The Free Beacon reported Monday that the Trump administration is preparing a new round of sanctions against Russia and Cuba for boosting Maduro, in addition to new sanctions targeting Venezuela's oil, gold, and drug trafficking markets. Envoy to Venezuela Elliott Abrams said the U.S. is also considering possible military options to reckon with the worsening humanitarian crisis.