By Charlette Sosa
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is pondering actions against a new list of Venezuelan officials it considers responsible for the country’s “sad state.”
“We are working with the Department of the Treasury to develop a very robust list of individuals” to sanction, Tillerson said. He did not name names nor give a timeline to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives.
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) asked the list “include more violators of human rights” in the light of the deaths that occurred during the recent slew of protests in Venezuela.
Washington’s response must be “productive and constructive” to avoid being “used” by President Nicolas Maduro’s regime “as a tool to justify their actions,” Tillerson cautioned during today’s hearing.
The U.S. will continue to be “very involved” in the regional efforts — “especially” through the Organization of American States (OAS) — for a solution to the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, Tillerson emphasized.
Poverty, unrest, impunity, corruption, and widespread shortages now define what had once been one of the richest countries in Latin America. Government moves late in March — through the Supreme Justice Tribunal (TSJ) — to annul the opposition-held National Assembly’s (AN) powers have worsened the political crisis. Despite a partial u-turn by the top court, the latest stream of protests has been non-stop since April 4th. The ranks span all social classes. The death toll numbers above 70 with the wounded in the thousands.
Tillerson reminded that the Treasury has already imposed sanctions on several judges of the TSJ, for “usurping authority” of the AN. In February, President Donald Trump’s Administration accused Venezuela’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, of being a major player in international drug trafficking.
Maduro touts his solution to the crisis — a National Constituent Assembly that will scrap the Constitution — as a “battle for peace.” Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) published the register today for the July 30th elections of the Constituent’s 545 members, according to the AVN state news agency.
Petitions by Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz to stop this Constituent have come up short. Her recent motion that the “presidential decree did not comply with legal requirement,” before the TSJ’s Electoral Chamber was ruled “inadmissible” today. The chamber cited “jurisdictional” issues, reported the Latin American Herald Tribune.
This follows a ruling by the top court that the assembly could move ahead without a popular referendum. In office for over a decade, the attorney general has become a thorn of conscious within the government stronghold in the last few months. “The authority to convene” a constitutional convention belongs to the people, insists Ortega Diaz.
In 1999, Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, held a referendum to create the assembly for the current Constitution. It was the first approved by a popular vote in Venezuelan history.
Last March, U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan (R, SC) said, “Venezuela is on the edge of a complete meltdown.” He emphasized during a Foreign Affairs hearing that “Gross economic mismanagement; widespread corruption throughout the government; and an erosion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights” have lead to the country’s “sad state.”
“I’m listening to what my people are telling me are the challenges facing them,” Tillerson said in opening remarks.