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U.S. Lawmakers Press Blinken to Name New Envoy for Venezuela

Bloomberg logo Bloomberg 3/2/2021 Nick Wadhams
a group of people walking in front of a building: A mural of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president, is seen on the wall of a building in the Jose Felix Ribas neighborhood of the Petare slum in Caracas, Venezuela. © Photographer: Ignacio Marin/Bloomberg A mural of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's president, is seen on the wall of a building in the Jose Felix Ribas neighborhood of the Petare slum in Caracas, Venezuela.

(Bloomberg) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is urging Secretary of State Antony Blinken to appoint a new special envoy for the Venezuela crisis, as officials look to inject new momentum into efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

The special envoy job has remained vacant since Elliott Abrams, appointed in 2019, left as part of the transition to President Joe Biden’s administration. Blinken has appointed new envoys for Iran and Yemen, but so far hasn’t said whether he plans to replace Abrams.

A letter sent Tuesday by a group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers asks that Blinken “expeditiously and judiciously fill this vacancy to promote U.S. national security interests, regional stability, and democracy in Latin America.” In a nod toward U.S. support for Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, the writers say U.S. policy “‘must be based on solidarity with leaders dedicated to democracy, rule of law, and free markets.”

a man standing next to a graffiti covered wall: Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk by a mural of President Nicolas Maduro in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Venezuela National Assembly President Juan Guaido called for a broad coalition to form a "national emergency government" to replace Maduro's regime and get financing to save lives as the coronavirus crisis spreads. © Bloomberg Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk by a mural of President Nicolas Maduro in the Petare neighborhood of Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Venezuela National Assembly President Juan Guaido called for a broad coalition to form a "national emergency government" to replace Maduro's regime and get financing to save lives as the coronavirus crisis spreads.

The letter is part of a new campaign to get the Biden administration to escalate pressure on Maduro, who shows no signs of stepping down despite diplomatic isolation and U.S. sanctions.

“We need to send a signal that we’re going to continue to back the legitimate government that Guaido represents,” Representative Michael Waltz, a Florida Republican, said in an interview. “Now we have a gap and that makes me uncomfortable given all the equities.”

Other signatories on the letter include Republican Representatives Maria Elvira Salazar and Byron Donalds as well as Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat. All three are also from Florida, a state where Venezuelan immigrants have become a small but important constituency.

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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