Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the U.S. plans to drop trade sanctions against Venezuela once embattled President Nicolás Maduro is out of office.
The Trump administration has endorsed Interim President Juan Guaidó, who has been prevented from taking office since earlier this year by the Maduro regime. The U.S. government has since turned up trade sanctions targeting financial transactions and exports to Venezuela to pressure Maduro to leave office.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s infrastructure for electricity, health care, water supply and transportation has continued to deteriorate.
“Nothing works properly,” Ross told attendees at the Venezuela Infrastructure Breakfast in Brasilia, Brazil, on Aug. 1. “Over 4 million people have fled; combined Venezuelan debt is about $190 billion and climbing; GDP has steadily shrunk since 2014; and neither the Maduro government nor its allies are capable or willing to solve these problems.
“Venezuela will continue to deteriorate until the internationally recognized government of Juan Guaidó is able to implement needed economic, political and social reforms,” he added.
The U.S. National Security Council recently instructed the Commerce Department to establish a plan to bring economic stability to Venezuela once Maduro and his regime leave power. Ross said 14 federal agencies and about 100 government personnel have spent the past four months developing “hundreds of pages of action items and time phasing.”
The U.S. government also is working with other Latin American governments, as well as Inter-American Development Bank and the private sector, on plans to restore Venezuela’s economy.
“All of our work follows on one overriding assumption: Everything we are working on are suggestions — the Guaidó government that will decide what is best for the people of Venezuela and how the international community can best help improve the situation,” Ross said.
One of those measures by the U.S. that will bring “immediate relief” is the easing of trade sanctions, Ross said. He added the U.S. also will move quickly to “promote domestic and international trade credit, deploy technical advisers and engage international financial institutions to build confidence in Venezuela’s new economic policies,” as well as provide food aid and tools to revitalize Venezuela’s agricultural sector.
A major area of concentration for the U.S. will be assisting the Guaidó government with privatizing and restarting Venezuela’s oil and gas production and distribution, which has long been a major source of revenue for the South American country, in addition to restoring its electrical, water and transportation infrastructure.
“Infrastructure investment, of course, will be integral to all this work,” Ross said. “Working with us, the Guaidó government, other partners and experts have identified more than 20 critically important energy, infrastructure and environmental projects for the economic stabilization of Venezuela.”