US outlines plan for Venezuela transition, sanctions relief

By AP

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In this March 12, 2020, file photo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

(AP) — The Trump administration is prepared to lift sanctions on Venezuela in support of a new proposal to form a transitional government representing allies of both Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido, US officials said.

The plan, which will be presented Tuesday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, echoes a proposal made over the weekend by Guaidó that shows how growing concerns about the coronavirus, which threatens to overwhelm the South American country’s already collapsed health system and crippled economy, are reviving US attempts to pull the military apart from Maduro.

What’s being dubbed the “Democratic Framework for Venezuela” would require Maduro and Guaidó to step aside and hand power to a five-member council of state to govern the country until presidential and parliamentary elections can be held in late 2020, according to a written summary of the proposal seen by The Associated Press.

Four of the members would be appointed by the opposition-controlled National Assembly that Guaidó heads. To draw buy-in from the ruling socialist party, a two-third majority would be required.

The fifth member, who would serve as interim president until elections are held, would be named by the other council members. Neither Maduro nor Guaidó would be on the council.

For months, the US has relied on economic and diplomatic pressure to try and break the military’s support for Maduro and last week US prosecutors indicted Maduro and key stakeholders — including his defense minister and head of the supreme court — on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.

Still, any power-sharing arrangement is unlikely to win Maduro’s support unless the thorny issue of his future is addressed and he’s protected from the US justice system, said David Smilde, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America.

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