The Biden administration is looking for ways to increase international pressure on Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro to ensure a peaceful and democratic transition of power, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told opposition leader Juan Guaidó on Tuesday. of a phone call.
Blinken “stressed the importance of a return to democracy in Venezuela through free and fair elections” in their first conversation since Blinken became secretary, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“Secretary Blinken described our efforts to work with like-minded allies, including the European Union, the Lima Group, the Organization of American States and the International Contact Group, to increase multilateral pressure and make pressure for a peaceful and democratic transition, ”added Price.
The call comes at a time when Maduro appears to be consolidating his hold over Venezuela, despite US sanctions and diplomatic pressure from the European Union and a number of Latin American countries. Meanwhile, the opposition struggled to regain momentum, with Guaidó losing popularity and unable to attract large crowds like he did in previous years.
While Biden is expected to make some adjustments to the Trump administration’s approach to Venezuela, Price said the State Department continues to recognize the 2015 National Assembly as the last democratic institution in Venezuela, and Guaido as its chairman. acting.
In a press release released later Tuesday, Guaidó’s team said Blinken reiterated the United States’ commitment to work with its allies to end the suffering of the Venezuelan population, including by increasing humanitarian aid. , and pledged to work together to organize free and fair elections.
“Venezuela can solve its own problems, but only when its people can establish a legitimate government through free and fair elections that use international standards of transparency, pluralism and self-determination,” Guaidó said, according to the statement. hurry.
Guaidó proclaimed himself the legitimate president of Venezuela in January 2019, a position quickly accepted by the United States and ultimately more than 50 other countries.
His tenure in Congress, the basis of his claim as Venezuela’s transition leader, ended in January after the opposition boycotted a legislative election widely seen as a sham. He and other lawmakers continued to hold sessions virtually, but some international actors reduced their support, referring to him as a prominent opposition figure rather than a head of state.
Maduro has started trying to curb the influence of the opposition inside the country as a new National Assembly made up over 95% by its supporters launches inquiries. The government also recently banned Guaidó and two dozen other lawmakers from holding public office for 15 years.
The international community is now closely monitoring the Biden administration to see if the new president will continue Donald Trump’s policy of increasing economic pressure or push for a new round of talks with Maduro that could lead to a relaxation of sanctions already in place. square.
Most supporters of the easing of sanctions say they have so far failed to oust Maduro while increasing hardship for a population already facing a humanitarian crisis.
Blinken and Guaidó also discussed the “urgent humanitarian needs” created by the Venezuelan crisis, which has forced nearly 5.5 million Venezuelans to flee the country.