US to push to isolate Venezuela until Maduro leaves power


Washington (AFP)

The United States on Tuesday vowed to push to isolate Venezuela until its President Nicolas Maduro leaves power, urging allies to follow suit.

"I think we have to continue to isolate Maduro until he gives in. Trying to get Maduro to go depends on the region," Nikki Haley, the top US diplomat at the United Nations, told a State Department meeting on Latin America.

"The systematic oppression of the Venezuelan people has become an active threat to the entire region," Haley warned.

"For the safety and security of all the peoples of Latin America, it is time for Maduro to go. We cannot allow the last, few surviving authoritarians to drag down the hemisphere," Haley stressed.

Maduro frequently warns that the United States will invade Venezuela, but Haley said any change would have to be from Latin American regional pressure.

US Vice President Mike Pence urged Maduro on Monday to suspend a divisive May 20 election he denounced as a "sham," as Washington slapped fresh sanctions on Maduro's regime.

Venezuela's opposition last week called for a boycott of the May 20 election, which Maduro looks likely to win in the absence of any real challenge to his authority.

The South American country is in partial default on its debt and suffers severe shortages of food and medicines despite sitting atop the planet's biggest proven oil reserves.

Maduro's government has been printing money as foreign reserves dwindle, and the national currency, the bolivar, has become nearly worthless.