The State Department said Tuesday that the US approach toward Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “not changing” and said crippling economic sanctions on the South American country will remain.
“Our approach to Nicolas Maduro is not changing. He is not the legitimate leader of Venezuela,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Price’s comments came after Maduro said Venezuela was “ready” to work toward normalization with the US, and Venezuela’s opposition voted to dissolve the “interim government” and removed Juan Guaido as the “interim president.”
The US recognized Guaido as the “interim president” of Venezuela in 2019 after rejecting the results of the 2018 election that saw Maduro secure another term. The US also backed a failed coup against Maduro and ramped up sanctions that have done little but hurt ordinary Venezuelans.
The US also didn’t recognize the 2020 parliamentary elections, and the opposition that the US backs is part of a National Assembly that was elected in 2015 but doesn’t hold power in Venezuela anymore. Despite the realities in Caracas, the US and its allies have granted the opposition National Assembly control over Venezuela’s offshore assets.
“We continue to recognize what is the only remaining democratically elected institution in Venezuela today, and that’s the 2015 National Assembly,” Price said. When asked about sanctions, Price said, “Our overall Venezuela-related sanctions and related restrictions remain in place.”
When dissolving the interim government, Venezuela’s opposition said it would create a new body to oversee offshore assets. “I understand that members of the National Assembly are discussing amongst themselves how they will oversee these overseas assets,” Price said.
While Price insists it’s business as usual when it comes to Venezuela, the US has eased sanctions very slightly. After Maduro resumed talks with the opposition in November, the US granted a license to Chevron to resume pumping oil in Venezuela and agreed to release $3 billion in Venezuelan funds that were frozen by US and European banks. Under the deal, the funds will go toward humanitarian and economic development projects.