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Washington (CNN) - The United States is pushing for new international sanctions against Venezuela, a senior State Department official said Monday. For their part, the Latin American states voted to persecute and possibly extradite the regime's leaders.
The United States wants more countries, and the European Union in particular, to impose sanctions on the regime of the besieged President Nicolás Maduro and keep Venezuela in the spotlight while the world gathers for the United Nations General Assembly, said the official of the State Department.
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"We want to make sure that the issue of a transition in Venezuela remains very important on the international agenda," a State Department official said Monday. "There have been times ... in the last six months, where people have said: 'Oh, (the administration) is not paying attention to Venezuela.' That is wrong, that is always wrong ... On the contrary, the issue will come up a lot this week. ”
"We are also asking the European Union to impose the type of sanctions we have, that Brazil has, that Canada has," said the official, who spoke about the background.
The official spoke shortly before the Organization of American States voted to invoke a mutual assistance treaty that has not been activated since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as part of the effort to increase pressure on the Maduro regime. A meeting of heads of government on Wednesday will also focus on Venezuela, said the State Department official.
The general objective of the Trump administration at the UN General Assembly "is to achieve concerted action," said the State Department official, adding that the possibility of talks with the Maduro regime seemed remote.
“Could people go back to the table? My answer is yes, but only if there is a clear signal from the regime that there is a clear interest in returning ”to a political transition, which to date, has not been seen, said the official.
The Organization of American States met later Monday to invoke the Rio Treaty, which includes an article that states that an attack on one should be considered an attack on everyone. The State Department official said the treaty functions as "a very useful coordination mechanism for economic and diplomatic pressures and sanctions that we would like more countries to impose."
In a 16-1 vote, the OAS agreed that it would work to prosecute, prosecute and extradite Maduro Government officials guilty of corruption, serious human rights abuses, drug trafficking and belonging to transnational criminal organizations.
Under the agreement, they could be prosecuted and prosecuted in the 16 countries. Uruguay was the only vote against, while Cuba was absent and Trinidad and Tobago abstained.
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid the groundwork for invoking the Rio Treaty on September 11, when he said Venezuela is a regional threat.
“The recent bellicose movements of the Venezuelan army to deploy along the border with Colombia, as well as the presence of illegal armed groups and terrorist organizations in Venezuelan territory show that Nicolás Maduro not only represents a threat to the Venezuelan people, but that their actions threaten the peace and security of Venezuela's neighbors, ”said Pompeo. "Catastrophic economic policies and political repression continue to drive this unprecedented refugee crisis, depleting the ability of governments to respond."
The State Department official consulted for this note said Monday that the Rio Treaty would help countries establish the legal basis for imposing sanctions against the Maduro regime.
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Several countries do not have national laws in place to justify the imposition of sanctions, the official said. Signing the treaty would give those countries the legal authority to do so. “They can say that they are bound by the Treaty of Rio. Once you sign a treaty, it becomes the binding law, ”said the official.
"If the meeting of ministers adopts a proposal to restrict the trips of the regime's big fish ... then they would have a legal basis to implement that in each of the countries that signed the treaty ... it will probably lead to a wider imposition of sanctions," said the official.
"Our goal is to lead more countries to impose sanctions, which we believe has a really significant economic and psychological effect on the regime," added the State Department official.
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Speaking at the OAS meeting on Monday night, Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo said that invoking the treaty would take whatever action or sanction decided at the meeting is "legitimate under international law." It is the “only inter-American instrument that gives us the legal instrument to take measures… to protect democracy, peace and stability in the region,” said Trujillo.
Mike Pompeo, during a press conference.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo said that Maduro has made the country a refuge "for all types of organized and transnational crime" and "narcoterrorists."
"They transformed the nation with crime," Araújo said through a translator, and called it "another aspect of the nightmare Venezuelans are going through." Brazil has opened its doors to Venezuelan refugees, Araújo said, but "it is clear that the final solution to the Venezuelan tragedy necessarily means that Venezuela returns to democracy."
The State Department official emphasized that the battle against Maduro is broader than a confrontation between the United States and Venezuela.
"Some people believe that this is a struggle between the United States and the Maduro regime, which it is not, is really a struggle between the people of Venezuela and the Maduro regime," said the official.
The official declined to say whether the OAS measure would result in the closure of Venezuela's airspace or to discuss other possible steps the group could take, but said the Trump administration is committed to increasing pressure on Maduro.
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Part of that commitment is to get Europe to step up its actions, the official said.
The EU has prepared and could impose a set of sanctions directly related to the torture and death of Venezuelan Navy Captain Rafael Acosta, who was allegedly tortured to death after being imprisoned for conspiring to overthrow Maduro.
"Then we would like to see sanctions that affect broader objectives in the regime," said the State Department official.
Speaking of Europe, the official added that "I think we all agree that its mechanisms are slow", but the United States hopes to "see movement in October" against Maduro.
As part of that, the United States would like to see the EU ensure that Venezuelan political elites cannot use the continent as a place to hide or support their families and their wealth. "We believe that there is something very improper in allowing Europe to become a tourist center" for the country's big fish and their families, said the official.