WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is expected to expel dozens of officials loyal to Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro from the United States, a top administration official announced Friday.
“Maduro supporters that abuse or violate human rights, steal from the Venezuelan people or undermine Venezuela’s democracy are not welcome in the United States,” Special Envoy Elliott Abrams told reporters at the State Department.
“Neither are their family members, who enjoy a privileged lifestyle at the expense of liberty and prosperity of millions of Venezuelans.”
Abrams’ announcement follows through on a threat aired prior to last week’s attempt to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela in coordination with top opposition leader Juan Guaido, whom the U.S. and dozens of other countries have recognized as the interim president of the country.
Maduro blocked the deliveries, and now, U.S. officials will revoke the visas of Maduro’s top officials and their families in an attempt to fracture the unity of the regime leadership.
“We are applying this policy to numerous Maduro-aligned officials and their families,” Abrams said, noting that privacy laws prevented him from sharing specific details about who is affected.
The list of people losing their American visas features “a mix” of individuals currently in the United States or other countries, Abrams added.
“The United States urges all nations to step up economic pressure on Maduro and his corrupt associates as well as restrict visas for his inner circle,” he said.
The U.S. hopes the visa restrictions will weaken support for Maduro within a ruling class that has long benefited from a “double-standard” relative to the Venezuelan people, reaping the rewards of loyalty even as the economic and political crisis deepened.
“What they impose on the Venezuelan people is what they and their families should live under,” a senior administration official told reporters in late February. “We will work with our partners for that international financial circle to close and then for them to all have to live together in the misery that they’re imposing.”
By Joel Gehrke