Venezuela expelled the top U.S. diplomatic officials in the country on Tuesday after the Trump administration increased sanctions on the South American nation.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) ripped former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for undermining the White House on sanctioning Venezuela, while praising his replacement, Mike Pompeo, for harsh new measures against the Venezuelan regime and its interests.
U.S. government officials on Monday denounced Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s declaration of victory in Sunday’s election as a fraud and issued new sanctions designed to prevent Maduro from selling off the country’s debt to U.S. entities and individuals.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) warned U.S. lawmakers and other officials against trying to open a backchannel with Venezuelan President Maduro as the Trump administration and regional allies work to ratchet up sanctions and form a united front against his regime.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R., Texas) quietly visited Venezuela this week and met with President Nicolas Maduro to discuss the potential release of at least one U.S. hostage, despite warnings from Republicans against attending high-level meetings with the South American country’s leaders.
The Trump administration is ratcheting up pressure on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro to force him to address the country’s deepening humanitarian crisis, release political prisoners unconditionally, and overhaul its election process ahead of a May presidential ballot.
President Donald Trump tightened U.S. sanctions against the Venezuelan government on Monday by prohibiting any U.S. financial transactions involving Venezuela’s new digital cryptocurrency, the Petro.