U.S. calls for Venezuelan president Maduro to step down

A customer displays new 500 Bolivar banknotes in Caracas Venezuela Jan. 17 2017

A customer displays new 500 Bolivar banknotes in Caracas Venezuela Jan. 17 2017

Pence told the 35-nation Organization of American States - which includes Venezuela as a member - that they needed to take greater steps to isolate Maduro.

Pence also dismissed the country's upcoming presidential elections, which Maduro is widely expected to "win", having banned most opposition candidates from running and relying on his regime's sophisticated use of voter fraud systems.

The US Treasury Department announced new sanctions Monday on three Venezuelans as the US ratchets up pressure on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has overseen a crackdown on protesters amid an economic crisis fuelled by rapid inflation.

"There will be no real election in Venezuela on May 20, and the world knows it", Pence said.

The Trump administration is designating a former official of the Venezuelan intelligence service, two of his aides and 20 companies as narcotics traffickers.

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"The time has come to open Venezuela to global aid, and do it now", Pence said.

On Monday, the Venezuelan representative to the OAS, Samuel Moncada, rejected Pence's statements and attempted to show US concern for the people of the region as hypocritical, citing the tens of thousand of Central America refugees who have lost their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) during the Trump administration, making them subject to deportation to countries where they face threats of violence and death.

The suggestion was immediately rejected by Caracas. Maduro asked a crowd in a rally on Tuesday in southern Amazonas state, condemning the US president and vice president for sanctions on his government. "Systemic corruption and a collapse in the rule of law are defining features of Venezuela's government", said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. The U.S. State Department has said not all political parties have agreed to the elections, limiting the ability of individuals to run.

Oil prices rose to their highest levels since late 2014 on Monday, boosted by fresh troubles for Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and a looming decision on whether the United States will reimpose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. It is the third-largest source of America's imported oil.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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