U.S. lawmakers want Blinken to
appoint special envoy for Venezuela
Dept of State
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
Representatives want Biden to make priority of ousting Maduro
Special envoy post remains vacant as regime remains in power
By Nick Wadhams/Bloomberg
Petroleumworld 03 04 2021
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to appoint a new special envoy for the Venezuela crisis, as officials look to inject new momentum into efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
The special envoy job has remained vacant since Elliott Abrams, appointed in 2019, left as part of the transition to President Joe Biden’s administration. Blinken has appointed new envoys for Iran and Yemen, but so far hasn’t said whether he plans to replace Abrams.
A letter sent Tuesday by a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers asks that Blinken “expeditiously and judiciously fill this vacancy to promote U.S. national security interests, regional stability, and democracy in Latin America.” In a nod toward U.S. support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, the writers say U.S. policy “‘must be based on solidarity with leaders dedicated to democracy, rule of law, and free markets.”
The letter is part of a new campaign to get the Biden administration to escalate pressure on Maduro, who shows no signs of stepping down despite diplomatic isolation and U.S. sanctions.
“We need to send a signal that we’re going to continue to back the legitimate government that Guaido represents,” Representative Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican, said in an interview. “Now we have a gap and that makes me uncomfortable given all the equities.”
Other signatories on the letter include Republican Representatives Maria Elvira Salazar and Byron Donalds as well as Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat. All three are also from Florida, a state where Venezuelan immigrants have become a small but important constituency.
The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.