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People push a vehicle that ran out of fuel to a Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday, April 25, 2020.

‘Maduro regime has plundered Venezuela’s wealth’ — US diplomat

People push a vehicle that ran out of fuel to a Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, on Saturday, April 25, 2020.

Principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau Of Western Hemisphere Affairs Julie J Chung is warning businesses in Trinidad and Tobago about engaging in activities in Venezuela.

Julie J Chung, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau Of Western Hemisphere Affairs (Photo: Channel 5 Belize)

During her presentation on the Growth in the Americas Initiative at the Trinidad and Tobago American Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting, on June 10, the US diplomat pointed out that, “I would also like to lay out our priorities and concerns regarding China and Venezuela.”

“Instead, the Maduro regime has plundered Venezuela’s wealth for private gain, impoverished its people, caused one of the largest forced displacements in recent history with now over five million refugees, and has been a key factor in the instability of the continent and the region,”

— Julie J Chung, principal deputy assistant secretary, Bureau Of Western Hemisphere Affairs

Chung then explained that her country’s foreign policy decisions regarding Venezuela are not haphazard. She went on to state that the aim of sanctioning the South American country us to “identify those entities that are providing material support to the illegitimate Maduro regime”.

In referring to the Venezuela Government as illegitimate, Chung explained that when that country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, called an election in 2018, it was illegitimate and left the presidency vacant. In addition, she said that the Maduro Administration has also failed to comply with the nation’s Constitution and peacefully transfer power.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro shake hands during a meeting. (File photo)

“Instead, the Maduro regime has plundered Venezuela’s wealth for private gain, impoverished its people, caused one of the largest forced displacements in recent history with now over 5 million refugees, and has been a key factor in the instability of the continent and the region,” Chung said in her presentation.

“When we look at the growing number of refugees in South America and the Caribbean — including in Trinidad and Tobago — it is the Maduro regime and its continued persecution of its people and gutting of its institutions that are to blame,” she continued.

Shoppers wearing protective masks walk through the Coche market in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. (File photo)

While the foreign affairs official concedes that nations in the region must work together to assist the “vulnerable people” of Venezuela, she argued that it is critical to help them restore their country to state of safety, prosperity, and democracy.

In fact, she clarified the US Government’s aim in Venezuela: the return of the National Assembly, a New Council of State that will serve as the executive branch, and a new Cabinet. She also called for new presidential and national assembly elections that are recognised internationally as free and fair.

Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. (File photo)

The US, Chung said, will gradually lift sanctions once Venezuela makes those changes and make way for a new, legitimate Government to function.

“Until that time, however, our sanctions remain in place, and I know the Trinbagonian business community is concerned about the reputational risk caused by sanctions,” Chung stated.

“It is critical that the Trinbagonian business community track and comply with US sanctions to the full extent possible,” she concluded.