US President Donald Trump’s special representative for Venezuela pledged on Thursday that Washington would “expand the net” of sanctions on the South American nation, including more on banks supporting President Nicolas Maduro’s government.
“There will be more sanctions on financial institutions that are carrying out the orders of the Maduro regime,” the envoy, Elliott Abrams, told a US Senate subcommittee hearing.
The United States and more than 50 other countries have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as oil-rich Venezuela’s interim president and increased pressure on Maduro, a socialist, to step down.
Washington this week revoked the visas of senior Venezuelan officials and said on Wednesday it had identified efforts by Maduro to work with foreign banks to move and hide money.
Abrams, a neoconservative who has long advocated an activist US role in the world, said he had asked European banks to take steps to shield individual Venezuelans’ assets from Maduro’s government. He did not name the banks.
Some lawmakers pressed Abrams about granting temporary protected status (TPS) for more than 70,000 Venezuelans in the United States.
More than 3 million people are believed to have fled Venezuela amid a deep economic crisis marked by shortages of food and medicine and hyperinflation.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee, which held the hearing, warned that millions of Venezuelan refugees could threaten regional stability.
Trump’s Venezuela envoy vows sanctions on banks backing Maduro