US, other regional powers to discuss Venezuela on UNGA sidelines

Venezuelan opposition diplomat says US attendance is a 'clear sign' that more pressure will be heaped on Nicolas Maduro.

    Venezuela's years-long crisis has seen millions of people become refugees and migrants [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]
    Venezuela's years-long crisis has seen millions of people become refugees and migrants [File: Nacho Doce/Reuters]

    The United States and more than a dozen countries in Latin America are meeting to consider multilateral sanctions against Venezuela.

    Officials on Monday are expected to discuss a range of punishments, including the loss of diplomatic recognition and an economic boycott.

    Many of the participating countries recognise the opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate ruler after he declared himself interim president in January, following the controversial reelection of President Nicolas Maduro in a May 2018 vote largely boycotted by the opposition.

    Earlier this month, the countries invoked the 70-year-old Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance - also known as the Rio Treaty - which contends that a threat against any single signatory should be considered a danger to all. 

    All sides have said they seek a peaceful solution to Venezuela's multiple crises. 

    Venezuela withdrew from the Rio Treaty in 2013. Maduro allies Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua, along with Ecuador and Mexico, are also no longer members.

    The remaining members have accepted Guaido's request to join. 

    On Monday, Venezuelan opposition envoy to the United Nations, Julio Borges, said that US President Donald Trump's attendance at the meeting was a "clear sing' that pressure on Maduro would increase.

    Both Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are expected to attend the meeting.

    Exacerbating the crisis

    Any new sanctions would heap additional pressure on Venezuela's decimated economy, which has been in a state of prolonged collapse since 2014.

    The US has already slapped the Latin American country with several rounds of sanctions, prompting the UN last month to raise concerns that economic action would significantly exacerbate the effects of the crisis on Venezuela's population.

    "I am deeply worried about the potentially severe impact on the human rights of the people of Venezuela of the new set of unilateral sanctions," UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in August. 

    The US is one of more than 60 countries that recognise Guaido, prompting Caracas to break diplomatic relations with Washington. 

    Oil-rich but cash-poor, Venezuela is suffering one of the worst economic crises in its history, with a quarter of its 30 million people in need of aid, according to the UN.

    The UN - which marks the opening of its 74th General Assembly (the UNGA) this month - estimates that at least four million Venezuelans have fled their country because of the economic situation, which has resulted in severe shortages of food and medicine

    The mass exodus has prompted Latin America's largest-ever refugee crisis

    Venezuela's exodus: Forced to flee

    In the Field

    Venezuela's exodus: Forced to flee

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies