US to deploy anti-drug ships near Venezuela

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       By Isabella Laroca

Speaking at the State Department, Pompeo outlined a plan to establish a transitional government and, "if the conditions of the framework are met", lift sanctions on Venezuela.

"This framework can provide a path that ends the suffering and opens the path to a brighter future for Venezuela", said Pompeo.

He holds onto power despite the escalation of U.S. efforts to remove him and has shown no willingness to seriously negotiate an end to his rule.

The initiative comes less than a week after the United States government took a more confrontational tack, indicting Maduro and more than a dozen other current and former top Venezuelan officials on charges of "narco-terrorism", accusations he dismissed as false and racist.

President Donald Trump said he was doubling United States military resources in the region, including vessels, aircraft and personnel, in a drug interdiction effort to deal with what he called a "growing threat".

Seemingly thrilled about the prospect of a Manuel Noriega redux - the Panamanian leader charged on drug trafficking in the 1980s and later ousted from power in a USA invasion - Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) taunted Maduro, who he said would not find the beefed up American military presence near his borders "comforting".

Asked if Guaido could run, Pompeo said: "Absolutely yes".

The leader of the Venezuelan regime Nicolás Maduro has offered in donation two Chinese-made COVID-19 testing machines to Colombia as a humanitarian gesture.

The US proposal, which Abrams said was approved by Trump, calls for Mr Maduro to "step aside" and for the opposition-controlled National Assembly "to elect an inclusive transitional government acceptable to the major factions" and then oversee elections in late 2020.

The Venezuelan Prosecutor General's Office has summoned opposition figure Juan Guaido to question him in the case of an attempted coup and the attempted assassination of President Nicolas Maduro, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said.

The Trump administration has offered to begin lifting sanctions against Venezuela if the country's President Nicolas Maduro agrees to a power-sharing agreement. Guaido invoked the Constitution a year ago to declare himself interim president in a move Maduro labelled as an attempted coup. Mr Maduro calls Mr Guaido a USA puppet.

But the success of the plan, which calls for power-sharing between the Guaido-led opposition and Socialist lawmakers, would ultimately hinge on Socialist leaders turning on Mr Maduro, the same strategy that Mr Guaido has been unable to execute.

Under the USA proposal, both Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido would step aside and neither would be part of the transitional government.

Socialist legislators are again considered unlikely to go along with the new U.S. plan.

The International Monetary Fund last week rejected Maduro's request for a $5 billion loan, on the grounds that there was "no clarity" on international recognition of his government.

Elliott Abrams, the USA pointman on Venezuela, said that the United States still recognized Guaido as interim president.

He said the proposal would not have a mechanism to revoke indictments against Mr Maduro and his loyalists. It adds that all political prisoners must be immediately released.

Saul Ortega, a Socialist legislator, called the U.S. proposal a "dangerous escalation against our people" as battles the coronavirus and said it had an "electoral stench" given Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

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