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US says Venezuela sanctions not now

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US lawmakers are pushing for sanctions against Venezuela, but the administration of President Barack Obama says not now.

The White House insists that sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro’s government at this time would harm negotiations between the government and opposition, Reuters reported on Friday.

Assistant US Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson spoke to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the issue on Thursday.

Jacobson said the administration does not rule out the imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan government officers if the situation in the country does not improve.

Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin asked for going beyond targeted sanctions on individuals and considering barring imports of Venezuelan oil. The US is the largest oil export market for the OPEC nation.

Venezuela has been the scene of violent pro- and anti-government demonstrations since early February.

The opposition criticizes the government for the high crime rate and economic hardships in the country, claiming that the policies of the government have led to a shortage of essential goods and a high inflation rate.

Maduro, however, says the Venezuelan opposition seeks to launch a coup d’état in the country with the support of the United States.

The Venezuelan leader ordered the expulsion of three US consular officials in February, accusing them of meeting with student protest leaders under the guise of offering them visas to destabilize the country.

In response, Washington declared three Venezuelan consular officials personae non gratae and asked them to leave the US.

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