The United States will not seek to prosecute Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro if he agrees to leave power and allow a transition to democracy, the State Department’s special envoy on Venezuela Elliott Abrams told the New York Times on Wednesday.
Since assuming power in 2017, the Trump administration has led efforts to remove Maduro from power by imposing a range of economic sanctions and threatening military force. Washington has also offered its full backing to President Juan Guaidó, who Maduro has prevented from exercising his constitutional power as head of state by maintaining control of the military.
Abrams appears to have shifted to a conciliatory approach towards Maduro, expressing a desire to see him have a “dignified exit” from power.
“This is not a persecution. We’re not after him. We want him to have a dignified exit and go,” the New York Times quoted him as saying. “We don’t want to prosecute you; we don’t want to persecute you. We want you to leave power.”
Many in Venezuela – and in the millions-strong Venezuelan diaspora that Maduro created – may not take well to impunity for Maduro, who has committed gross human rights violations in his tenure. Such crimes were recently corroborated by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a former ally of the Maduro regime, during an inspection of the country.
As well as being responsible the worst economic and humanitarian crisis in the country’s history, the Maduro regime has also successfully transformed the country into a dictatorship modeled on communist Cuba, presiding over “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture” of anti-government activists and a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial executions, Bachelet’s report said.
Last week, President Donald Trump claimed the White House was in touch with the regime “at a very high level,” although Abrams denied this was the case. The Associated Press reported that the talks were with United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) leader and television host Diosdado Cabello about the possibility of removing Maduro from power in exchange for his future immunity, as well as that of other senior socialist and military officials.
Diosdado Cabello is widely believed to be the head of the Cartel de los Soles, an intercontinental cocaine trafficking organization.
“The notion that we are negotiating is just flat-out wrong,” Abrams said. “And the notion that there is a pattern of communication is wrong. There are intermittent messages and I think people would find the very occasional message sent from Washington to be completely predictable: ‘You need to return to democracy. Maduro needs to leave power. He cannot run in an election. We will not lift sanctions until he is out of power.’”