White House Calls for Transitional Government in Venezuela

WASHINGTON (CN) — After U.S. prosecutors filed drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last week, the Trump administration on Tuesday announced a plan to form a transitional government in the South American country that would see Maduro step down.

At a news conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo introduced the so-called Democratic Framework for Venezuela, a 15-point proposal for a government representing both allies of Maduro and the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido. Pompeo said members of both coalitions would assume control of the Venezuelan government until national elections could be held in as little as six months.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

“If the conditions of the framework are met, including the departure of foreign security forces and elections deemed free and fair by international observers, then all remaining U.S. sanctions would be lifted,” Pompeo said.

The plan stipulates that both Maduro and Guaido cede control to a five-member Council of State that would govern the country until new elections are held. Four members of the council would be appointed by the Venezuelan National Assembly, which is controlled by those opposing Maduro. A fifth member would be chosen by the first four members and would serve as interim president.

All powers of the presidency would be vested in the Council of State, which also would appoint a new cabinet. In addition, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be established to investigate human rights violations and serious acts of violence since 1999. That five-member body will be selected by the United Nations secretary general.

Those charged with human rights abuses and other drug-trafficking or corruption charges would not have sanctions against them lifted. But other members of Maduro’s government, Supreme Court judges and those on the electoral council would benefit from the country’s reintroduction into the oil market—Venezuela’s main source of income.

The State Department said foreign forces from Russia and Cuba, both of which support the Maduro regime, would need to leave the country for the sanctions to be lifted. All political prisoners must also be immediately released.

The plan announcement comes less than week after U.S. prosecutors charged Maduro and others of conspiring with Colombian rebels “to flood the United States with cocaine.” The socialist leader fired back at the White House, calling President Donald Trump a “racist cowboy.”

Amid a global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, issues with Venezuela’s crippled health care system – which has a shortage of soap and other necessities – have sped up demand for the country to settle on a new leader.

Last week, Maduro asked the International Monetary Fund for a $5 billion emergency loan to quell the virus’ spread but his request was denied. Guaido has made similar calls for relief.

Opposition political leader Juan Guaido greets a supporter in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

Guaido will still receive American support to become the country’s next president, Pompeo said Tuesday, as the Trump administration works closely with the opposition leader in drafting Venezuela’s Democratic plan.

With crude oil prices hovering around $25 per barrel, Pompeo said the plan for a transitional government and sanctions relief is not an opportunity to increase pressure on Venezuela if it doesn’t comply.

However, in a statement released by the State Department earlier Tuesday, Pompeo said U.S. sanctions “will remain in effect, and increase, until the Maduro regime accepts a genuine political transition.”

“The United States has long been committed to finding a solution to the man-made crisis in Venezuela,” Pompeo said. “The urgency for this has become all the more serious in light of the Maduro regime’s failure to adequately prepare for and address the global Covid-19 pandemic.”

Pompeo said he hopes Maduro will take the offer seriously but added he will “never again govern Venezuela.”

“I hope as we have laid out this clear pathway to peace, that the Venezuelan people will demand that every leader inside of Venezuela, not just Maduro and his team but every leader inside Venezuela will look at this seriously and say, ‘That is a path which we can see our way forward,’ which will deliver this hope for Venezuela,” Pompeo said.

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