Venezuela’s president and political opponent have been asked to stand down by the United States administration.
The US has proposed a political transition plan for Venezuela, offering to lift sanctions if the president, Nicolás Maduro, and his opponent, Juan Guaidó, step aside and pass power to an interim government made up of their supporters.
Under the ‘democratic transition framework’, all political prisoners would be released, and all foreign – principally Cuban – forces would leave. A five-member council of state would be selected, with two members chosen by the opposition, two by Maduro’s Socialist party, and the fifth member picked by the other four. The military high command would remain in place.
“The hope is that this set-up promotes the selection of people who are very broadly respected and known as people who can work with the other side,” the US special representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, said.
The US and European Union would then lift sanctions on the current leadership. Broader sanctions on the country’s oil business would be lifted after all foreign forces had left the country. All sanctions would be lifted after free elections, to be held within six to 12 months.
The proposal comes a week after the US indicted Maduro and top members of his government and army for drug trafficking and money laundering, and as Venezuela faces blanket sanctions, a collapse in the price of oil, its main export, and the coronavirus pandemic, with a crippled health system.
“The United States has long been committed to finding a solution to the manmade crisis in Venezuela,” the US secretary of state, Mike 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. This framework demonstrates our commitment to helping Venezuela fully recover and ensures that the voice of the Venezuelan people is respected and included.”
At press time both leaders had not yet responded.