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U.S. lifts sanctions on former Venezuelan intelligence chief for breaking ranks with Maduro regime

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May 7 (UPI) — The United States lifted economic sanctions on a former Venezuelan general who broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.

In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department, Pence said he hoped the lifting of sanctions would encourage others in the Venezuelan government and military to join U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president after the 2018 re-election of Maduro was deemed illegitimate.

“We hope the action that our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of General [Manuel Ricardo] Cristopher Figuera and members of the military who have also stepped forward,” he said.

The United States has sanctioned more than 150 Venezuelan officials and businesses, the New York Times reported.

The Treasury Department said it removed the sanctions imposed against Cristopher Figuera who, after breaking with the Maduro regime last week, “rallied to the support of the Venezuelan constitution and the National Assembly.”

Cristopher Figuera was the director general of Venezuela’s National Intelligence service, commonly known as SEBIN.

The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control first imposed the sanctions for being an official of the Government of Venezuela on Cristopher Figuera on Feb. 15, the Treasury Department said.

“Today’s action, taken in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, demonstrates that U.S. sanctions need not be permanent and are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior,” the department said. “The delisting of Christopher also shows the good faith of the United States that removal of sanctions may be available for designated persons who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the illegitimate Maduro regime or combat corruption in Venezuela.”

Maduro accused Cristopher Figuera of conspiring with Guaido to overthrow him during a failed uprising last week by releasing popular opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Cristopher Figuera’s whereabouts are unknown.

With the lifting of the sanctions, all property and interests in property Cristopher Figuera may have in the states is unblocked and he is no longer barred from performing lawful transactions with American citizens.

National security advisor John Bolton said others in the Venezuelan government should follow Cristopher Figuera’s lead.

“As we have repeatedly stated, the United States will provide sanctions off-ramps to Venezuelan officials who support the restoration of democracy and the Constitutional order in Venezuela,” he said in a tweet. “General Cristopher’s colleagues should take note.”

The lifting of sanctions comes after the Maduro regime Tuesday charged seven opposition lawmakers with treason and rebellion for their roles in last weeks coup attempt, the Miami Herald reported.

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