- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The White House said Wednesday the administration is revoking dozens of visas tied to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, as the administration ramps up pressure on the strongman’s inner circle and financial networks.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the State Department’s decision to revoke 77 visas held by Mr. Maduro’s officials or their families amid a speech to The Latino Coalition, a partnership of Hispanic business owners.

“We will continue to hold the Maduro regime accountable until ‘libertad’ is restored in Venezuela,” Mr. Pence said, using the Spanish word for freedom.

National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton also warned foreign banks they will face repercussions for performing transactions that benefit the regime.

It’s part of broader efforts to isolate Mr. Maduro, who is clinging to power despite global pressure to step aside in light of the humanitarian crisis in his country.

Last week, the U.S. announced it had revoked 49 other visas and imposed an initial batch of sanctions.

The administration is strongly backing Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader who invoked constitutional powers to name himself interim president.

Mr. Guaido returned to Venezuela from a Latin American tour on Monday, despite threats from Mr. Maduro, who is insulated by military members loyal to him.

The administration says it’s leaving all options on the table in nudging out Mr. Maduro, though for now it’s stopping short of military threats and relying on economic and diplomatic pressure.

“The United States is putting foreign financial institutions on notice that they will face sanctions for being involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that benefit Nicolas Maduro and his corrupt network,” Mr. Bolton said. “We will not allow Maduro to steal the wealth of the Venezuelan people.”

Mr. Bolton also tweeted support for Saturday protests planned by Mr. Guaido.

More than 50 countries have joined the U.S. in recognizing Mr. Guaido as the South American nation’s rightful leader.

That includes the German ambassador to Venezuela, Daniel Kriener, who the Maduro government declared “persona non grata” on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said Mr. Kriener has 48 hours to leave Venezuela, citing on Twitter “his recurrent acts of interference in the internal affairs of the country.”

Mr. Pence called on all nations to recognize Mr. Guaido, saying there can be “no bystanders” in the fight.

“Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go,” Mr. Pence said.

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