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Trump administration to put Venezuela on state sponsors of terror list

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Venezuela Nicolas Maduro Vladimir Padrino military army parade
Venezuelan
President Nicolas Maduro at a military parade to celebrate the
195th anniversary of the Battle of Carabobo, next to Venezuelan
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, in Caracas, June 24,
2016.

REUTERS/Marco
Bello


  • The Trump administration is reportedly considering
    naming Venezuela a state sponsor of terror.
  • The designation would put Venezuela alongside countries
    like Iran and North Korea.
  • But applying the label may hinder efforts to help
    Venezuelans, millions of whom have fled their country.

The Trump administration is reportedly preparing to escalate its
campaign to isolate and pressure the regime of Nicolas Maduro in
Venezuela by adding the government to the US’s state sponsors of
terror list, according to The Washington
Post
.

Countries on the list have been found by
the US secretary of state “to have repeatedly provided support
for acts of international terrorism.”

The four main kinds of sanctions that result from designation are
“restrictions on US foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports
and sales; certain controls over exports of dual-use items; and
miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.”

North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Sudan are the only countries on the
list, which critics say has been used inconsistently.


Trump Tillerson venezuela
President
Donald Trump during a press conference on potential responses to
the crisis in Venezuela, in August 2017.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The designation has not be made, but the State Department has
sought feedback on naming Venezuela to the list, according to
The Post, including from the
Health and Human Services Department.

Emails to HHS officials did not name the country, but a State
Department officer did say Venezuela was the country in question
on a phone call with officials last week from various US
agencies. The officer did not give a date, saying only that “they
expect to make a decision soon,” an official on the call told The Post.


Read also:
Millions of Venezuelans have fled
their homes, and it’s affecting the entire region — here’s where
they’re going

Trump has sought to pressure the Venezuelan government since
taking office — his National Security Council was reportedly told
that the South American country was one of his top-three
priorities
, alongside Iran and North Korea.

The South American country economy has deteriorated, with the
public facing political repression, health crises, and widespread
violence. Government services have broken down, including
healthcare, allowing disease to spread and depriving patients of
treatment. Some three million people have left the country in
recent years.


Colombia Venezuela border migrants
Colombian
police officers stand in front of people queueing to try to cross
into Colombia from Venezuela through Simon Bolivar international
bridge in Cucuta, Colombia, January 24, 2018.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In August 2017, Trump said he was “not going to rule out a military
option
” in Venezuela, and he has raised the possibility in
public and private since then. Trump’s aides have reportedly
dissuaded him, and US officials have met with but rebuffed inquiries from
Venezuelan military officers who said they were planning a coup.

The Trump administration has sanctioned dozens of Venezuelan
officials, including Maduro.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, John Cornyn of Texas,
and Cory Gardner of Colorado, wrote a letter to Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo in September supporting the terrorism-sponsor
designation for Venezuela.


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The letter said Maduro’s government had associated with Colombian
left-wing rebel groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, as
well as with Hezbollah, a Lebanese group recently named by the
Justice Department as one of the main transnational
criminal threats
to the US.

The FARC has agreed to demobilize, though some former members are
still involved in criminal activity. The ELN has engaged in peace
talks with the Colombian government that have not gone anywhere;
the group is believed to be growing in power and present in at least half of
Venezuela’s states, where it has attacked the military and
civilians.

Corruption and impunity in Venezuela have allowed criminal
activity to flourish, with Colombian
groups deeply involved and with Venezuelan officials actively
participating.


Venezuela Colombia Cucuta migrants refugees
Venezuelans
line the street at the border between Venezuela and Colombia, in
Cucuta, Colombia, February 21, 2018.

REUTERS/Carlos Eduardo Ramirez

However, officials have said the links to Hezbollah and other
terrorist groups may be overstated. “The whole Hezbollah line has
been distorted for political purposes by the more extreme
elements of the US right wing,” a former CIA senior official
told Reuters earlier this
year.

Assessments of the potential impact of such a designation on
Venezuela were mixed, according to officials who spoke with The
Post.

Naming Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism could interfere
with efforts to support health programs in the country, though
Trump could provide waivers to groups involved, William
Brownsfield, a former US ambassador to Venezuela, told The Post.


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out’

Designating Venezuela as a sponsor of terrorism could also
complicate dealings with the US oil industry, which processes
most of Venezuela’s crude. (Venezuela has the world’s largest
proven oil reserves.)

The designation may also further efforts to portray Venezuela as
a threat to US national security, though applying it and further
discussion of military action may be counterproductive to the
goal of forcing Maduro out of power.

Such threats “contribute to the unity and coherence of the Maduro
government and undermine opposition organization and unity,”
David Smilde, a Venezuela expert and senior fellow at the
Washington Office on Latin America, told The Post. “Since
President Trump first suggested a military option in August 2017
the Venezuelan opposition has fallen apart.”

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