The US will impose new "impactful" measures against the Venezuelan government to further 'cripple the regime' sometime in the next thirty days, and does not rule out sanctions against Russian oil giant Rosneft over its ongoing cooperation with Venezuela, a senior Trump administration official has said, his comments cited by Reuters.
According to the official, the US was currently only "halfway" on the path to maximum pressure against Venezuela. Washington is also "indeed concerned about the behaviour" of Russia's Rosneft in the Latin American country, the official said.
The official warned Venezuela's government not to interfere with self-proclaimed 'president' Juan Guaido's return to Venezuela after his trip to Washington, warning that Caracas would face "very significant consequences" if the opposition lawmaker was in any way harmed.
"Any harm that may be caused on Juan Guaido on his return to Venezuela will have very significant consequences. Therefore they should tread very carefully in that regard," the official said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told reporters Wednesday that Trump's remarks at his State of the Union address Tuesday night constituted "violent threats" against the country's "constitutional, legitimate and democratic government," and accused the US president of 'offending and disrespecting' the Venezuelan people.
Calling Trump an "arrogant charlatan," Arreaza rejected the US president's "interventionist rhetoric" with regard to his country.
Trump and Guiado are expected to meet later in the day on Wednesday, with the White House press service saying the meeting would be an "opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the people of Venezuela" and to help "expedite a democratic transition in Venezuela that will end the ongoing crisis."
Guaido traveled to the United States to attend Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday, with the US president giving the opposition lawmaker a shoutout and thanking him for attending the event. "As we restore American leadership throughout the world, we are once again standing up for freedom in our hemisphere...We are supporting the hopes of Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans to restore democracy. The United States is leading a 59-nation diplomatic coalition against the socialist dictator of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro. Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who abuses his people," Trump said in his speech.
Guaido, who illegally proclaimed himself Venezuela's 'interim president' over a year ago, recently lost his post as speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, with a number of his erstwhile allies abandoning him and electing a new leader. The 36-year-old proclaimed himself president on January 23, 2019, about two weeks after Maduro was sworn in for a second term in office following elections in 2018. Maduro has accused Guaido and his allies of seeking to stage a foreign-backed coup backed by the US and its allies, and of colluding to steal the country's oil and mineral resources.
The US and its Latin American and European allies immediately moved to recognize Guiado's claim to power, but Russia, China, Cuba, and other countries around the world have continued cooperation with the democratically elected Maduro government and refused to recognize Guaido's legitimacy.