U.S. Tries to Squeeze Venezuelan President by Revoking His Allies’ Visas
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday that it had revoked 77 more visas of individuals aligned with President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela in its rolling campaign against a leader who has thwarted humanitarian aid deliveries and aggressive American-led efforts to install his replacement.
“In all, more than 250 visas have been revoked,” Kimberly Breier, an assistant secretary of state, wrote on Twitter, confirming what Vice President Mike Pence had hinted at this week. “We will continue to hold all of the Maduro regime accountable until democracy & freedom are fully restored in #Venezuela.”
The visa announcement is the latest in a series of relatively modest moves by Washington intended to slowly choke off Mr. Maduro’s economic resources.
So far, the Trump administration has introduced weekly rounds of sanctions against individuals, including Venezuelan governors and members of Mr. Maduro’s inner circle, who are accused of helping deflect foreign aid from entering the country. Venezuela is suffering from skyrocketing poverty, hyperinflation and an exodus of millions under Mr. Maduro’s government.
On Thursday, Elliott Abrams, the administration’s top envoy to Venezuela, also told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that officials were considering granting temporary protected status to roughly 74,000 Venezuelans seeking to enter the United States.
“We have this policy under review right now,” Mr. Abrams said.
Just days earlier, however, the possibility of granting such entry to Venezuelans seeking political asylum in the United States was played down by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser. He believes toppling Mr. Maduro’s government and installing Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader, will negate the need for asylum.
Trump administration officials plan to build on sanctions levied against Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., or Pdvsa, the state-run oil company, as a next step that could prove politically fatal for Mr. Maduro.
And one senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the strategy, said this week that more efforts were on the way to target Mr. Maduro’s cash reserves, including stronger sanctions against banking institutions and networks that work with his government.
Despite the aggressive campaign by the United States, Mr. Maduro has shown few signs of leaving power. He also appeared relatively unfazed after a violent scuffle over humanitarian aid unfolded at the Colombia border two weeks ago.
In recent days, Mr. Maduro’s government has taken steps to clamp down on journalists. On Wednesday, an American freelance journalist with Venezuelan residency rights was arrested and deported.
Mr. Guaidó, who returned this week to Venezuela without incident after a tour through Latin America to shore up support, has called for more street protests of Mr. Maduro this weekend amid continued attempts to deliver aid.
Mr. Maduro, for his part, has accused Mr. Guaidó of being a puppet for the Trump administration.
Facing a stubborn Maduro government, members of the Trump administration have hinted at military intervention, a path requested by Mr. Guaidó. The opposition leader has garnered the support of more than 50 countries to take over as Venezuela’s interim president.
On Wednesday evening, Mr. Bolton said again on Twitter that President Trump was considering “all options” — the latest assurance to Mr. Guaidó that military intervention could be a possibility, albeit a distant one.
But other administration officials have signaled that they will try to wait out Mr. Maduro, no matter how long that might take.
“There is no timeline,” Mr. Pence told the Spanish channel Univision in an interview on Wednesday. “Interim President Guaidó has assumed authority under their Constitution, but our focus is on seeing a restoration of the rule of law and democracy in Venezuela.”