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U.S. vows to increase pressure on Maduro as Guaido visits White House

U.S. President Donald Trump walks with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido down the West Wing Colonnade as he arrives for meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
U.S. President Donald Trump walks with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido down the West Wing Colonnade as he arrives for meeting at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The United States plans to further ratchet up its maximum pressure campaign on embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a senior administration official said as U.S. President Donald Trump hosted opposition leader Juan Guaido to a state visit.

"You will see some impactful measures within the next 30 days, which will be very important and further crippling on the regime," the senior administration official said in a phone call with reporters on Wednesday.

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The United States has been employing a maxim pressure policy of escalating sanctions and political pressure on Maduro to step down after his re-election was deemed illegitimate in late 2018. In early 2019, Guaido, as leader of the National Assembly, appointed himself interim president.

Since then, nearly 60 mostly Western nations, led by the United States, have voiced support for Guaido's presidency. However, despite the mounting pressure, Maduro has managed to cling to power with the support of Russia and Cuba, but the United States is planning to further tighten its vises on Maduro in order to force him to step down, the senior official said.

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"We are probably halfway to what maximum pressure could look like," the official said. "There's a lot of tools and a lot of targets at our disposal, and we plan to use as many of them as necessary in order to fulfill our goal of an end to this dictatorship and a democratic transition in Venezuela."

The comments came as U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido at the White House on Wednesday for a state visit.

The White House said in a statement that the two men had "a historic discussion" about how to bring about a democratic transition in Venezuela.

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"President Trump underscored the United States' commitment to end the corrupt and violent dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro," the White House said in the statement.

The Oval Office meeting and the South Lawn welcome came a day after Guaido attended Trump's 3rd State of the Union address as his special guest.

During his speech, Trump introduced Guaido and said the United States stands with the people of Venezuela in their quest for freedom. He also condemned the "brutality" of Maduro.

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"Maduro is an illegitimate ruler, a tyrant who brutalizes his people," Trump said Tuesday night. "But Maduro's grip of tyranny will be smashed and broken."

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Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., applauded Trump for inviting Guaido to the White House, stating he encouraged earlier in the week for the meeting to happen.

"I am glad President Trump is taking this historic step today," Scott said in a statement. "This meeting, as well as having President Guaido as his guest to last night's State of the Union, sends a clear message to Maduro that his time is up. We will never stop fighting to free the people from Maduro's brutal regime, and the United Staes will always stand with those fighting for freedom, democracy and human rights."

Sen. Mark Rubio, R-Fla., who met with Guaido Wednesday along with other senators and Vice-President Mike Pence, also said the Trump administration "deserves credit" for supporting the Venezuelan opposition leader.

"As we continue to assist Venezuela's path to democratic order, we must prioritize efforts that will help the nation prosper in a Venezuela liberated from the evils of Maduro's narco-dictatorship," he said in a statement.

Venezuela on Wednesday rejected Trump's State of the Union comments as "delirious and arrogant."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza in a statement said the country denounces Trump's "rude interferences in its internal affairs."

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"He seemed to resurrect the already obsolete manifest destiny, reiterated his contempt for peace, for international law, for life and in particular for the sovereignty of Venezuela, counting on the shameful complicity of those who are dedicated to betray the homeland, in exchange for the humiliating crumbs that he throws at them, depending on his mood, his boss, Mr. Trump," he said.

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