The US is ready to apply new sanctions on Venezuela’s leadership, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, as the government steps up pressure on Nicolas Maduro to relinquish power and allow new elections to be held.
The US government will use all political and economic means at its disposal, including sanctions and visa revocations against those propping up the regime, Pompeo said from the Colombian town of Cucuta on the border with Venezuela, at the end of a three-day visit to South America.
The region is grappling with a massive exodus of Venezuelans escaping food shortages, economic collapse and a breakdown in law and order.
The top US diplomat said 3.4 million Venezuelans have fled the country and that number may reach 5 million by year-end.
The US and more than 50 other nations recognise National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the nation’s rightful leader.
“Maduro’s usurpation must end. All Venezuelans should reject the illegal authoritarian rule imposed on the Venezuelan people, including the Venezuelan military leadership,” Pompeo said in prepared remarks, following a visit to the Simon Bolivar bridge between Colombia and Venezuela that Maduro closed in February.