WASHINGTON – The latest sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Venezuela are “behaviorally focused” and not designed to bring about regime change, Deputy National Security Adviser Rick Waddell said.
“We would like the Venezuelan regime to return to democratic process. We would like them to respect human rights. We would like them to respect property. That does not necessarily necessitate regime change,” Waddell said in an address to the annual CAF Latin American development bank conference in Washington.
The White House official, a retired US general, said that if Venezuela stayed on its current course, it would become “a failed state” and “the second dictatorship in Latin America,” referring to Cuba, the Maduro administration’s closest ally.
Waddell’s comments come in the wake of President Donald Trump’s signing on Aug. 25 of an executive order banning dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA.
The executive order imposed the first sanctions on Venezuela’s financial system after previous measures had targeted high-level Maduro administration officials.
Waddell’s address was in line with Washington’s prior and less confrontational position toward Venezuela, a stance that was rocked last month by Trump’s comment that military action was an option.
Governments across the region rejected the use of military action to remove Maduro from office.
The US and many of Venezuela’s regional neighbors have been harshly critical in recent months of Maduro’s push to create a National Constituent Assembly (ANC).
The ANC, which was inaugurated last month after a process boycotted by Maduro’s opponents, has taken over the functions of the unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, the only institution in the opposition’s control.
Maduro has touted the ANC as necessary to lift Venezuela, which had been racked by months of violent opposition-led protests, out of political deadlock and a deep economic crisis.
Venezuela’s opposition, which has been stymied in its efforts to oust Maduro via a recall referendum, contends the ANC is merely a mechanism to increase the president’s stranglehold on power.
The US government has been referring to Maduro’s government as a “dictatorship” since the election of the ANC’s members on July 30.