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US revokes visas of Venezuelan lawmakers seated by Maduro

File photo of US President Donald Trump (R) and Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro (L). Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Washington, USA Feb 08, 2019, 09.19 AM (IST)

The United States said Thursday it was revoking visas of Venezuelan lawmakers seated by President Nicolas Maduro as it criticized European and Latin American countries for seeking dialogue with the embattled leader.

The United States has recognised Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly, as the interim president of the economically troubled nation. 

Also read: US sanctions hurt, but the economic crisis is homegrown in Venezuela

Maduro rejects the elected body's authority and in 2017 paved the way for a rival Constituent Assembly, whose members are stacked with supporters of the leftist firebrand after the opposition boycotted the vote.

Elliot Abrams, the new US envoy on the Venezuelan crisis, said that Washington was revoking the visas of an unspecified number of members of the Constituent Assembly.

"The body has usurped many of the constitutional powers of the legitimate National Assembly and embodies Maduro's destruction of democratic institutions," Abrams told reporters.

He also denounced a meeting in Montevideo of ministers from more than a dozen European and Latin American countries who are seeking a mediated path to end Venezuela's standoff.

The talks involve EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and are spearheaded by Mexico and Uruguay, two of the only Latin American countries not to have recognized Guaido other than Maduro allies such as Cuba.

Abrams -- a longtime Republican foreign policy player who helped steer Ronald Reagan's controversial backing of anti-communist forces in Central America -- said that countries should only deal with Guaido.

"Instead of trying to accommodate Maduro through contact groups or dialogue, we urge countries to recognize Juan Guaido as interim president and join us in responding to his call for immediate international humanitarian assistance to meet the needs of the Venezuelan people," Abrams said.

"Maduro has proven he will manipulate any calls for negotiations to his advantage and he has often used so-called dialogues as a way to play for time," he said.

"The time for dialogue with Maduro has long passed."

The United States, along with allies Colombia and Brazil, are trying to bring aid into Venezuela, a move that Maduro says is a precursor to a US invasion.

Story highlights

The United States has recognised Juan Guaido, the head of the opposition-led National Assembly, as the interim president of the economically troubled nation.