Washington pushes EU for tougher sanctions on Venezuela
The Trump administration will press the EU to impose harsher sanctions on Venezuela as part of a diplomatic visit to Brussels this week.
Washington has imposed sweeping punitive economic measures against Caracas to apply pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro, which it accuses of corruption and fomenting a humanitarian crisis.
So far, the US has imposed financial sanctions on 115 individuals, revoked the visas of hundreds more and imposed an oil embargo on the Opec nation while also restricting Venezuelan access to US financial markets.
Donald Trump issued an executive order in August that extends previous sanctions against the Maduro regime and is designed to prevent third-party countries doing business with the government in Caracas.
The EU has imposed more limited sanctions on 18 individuals linked to the Maduro regime, along with an arms embargo to prevent Caracas buying weapons.
The state department’s Venezuela envoy, Elliott Abrams, has said he will push Brussels to join Washington in its pressure campaign when he visits Europe this week.
The EU warned earlier this summer that it would impose further sanctions on Caracas if no progress was made in talks between the Maduro government and the opposition representatives being held in Norway. Such countermeasures require unanimity among the bloc’s 28 member states.
The US joined several other Latin American countries, including Brazil and Colombia, in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the interim president in January, as opposition supporters staged mass rallies around the country. Mr Maduro has clung to power, however, largely due to support from the armed forces.
As the impasse continues, Latin American civil society groups have warned that sanctions could risk exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
EU-US tensions over Venezuela could rise later this year with the scheduled arrival of Josep Borrell, currently the Spanish foreign minister, as the bloc’s new foreign policy chief.
Mr Borrell has previously branded Mr Trump’s Venezuela policy “cowboy” — and has also expressed frustration to aides over failed efforts to build an EU consensus over the recognition of Mr Guaidó as interim president. Instead, some states — including Spain — have offered recognition, while others have withheld it.