Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Organization of American States to expel Venezuela and squeeze the country with more sanctions.
"There is no greater challenge today than the full-scale dismantling of democracy and the heartbreaking humanitarian disaster in Venezuela," Pompeo told a meeting of the organization Monday in Washington. "We seek only what all the nations of the OAS want for our people," he said, listing "a return to the constitutional order, free and fair elections with international observers and the release of political prisoners."
Pompeo said the US welcomed Venezuela's recent release of American prisoner Joshua Holt but that the country had "demonstrated unmistakable bad faith," and he dismissed last month's elections, which returned President Nicolas Maduro to power, as a "sham."
'Apply additional pressure'
"In addition to suspension, I call on fellow member states to apply additional pressure on the Maduro regime, including sanctions and further diplomatic isolation, until such time that it undertakes the actions necessary to return genuine democracy and provide people desperately needed access to international humanitarian aid," Pompeo said. "We call on all OAS nations to do this today, regarding Venezuela, and in the future wherever necessary for good of the region and the world."
Pompeo also mentioned Cuba in his remarks, saying there is growing demand for change there as young people demand opportunities.
"In Cuba today, we see an expectation that change is inevitable and that it can't come quickly enough," Pompeo said. The island nation's youth "want what everyone else wants: opportunities to exercise their talents."
The Trump administration has been steadily ratcheting up the economic pressure on Venezuela, announcing new measures May 21 after Maduro won a second term. The oil rich nation's economy has collapsed, and around 1.5 million Venezuelans have fled for neighboring countries as basic goods have become increasingly scarce.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza responded to Pompeo's call, accusing the US of attempting a coup d'-tat and blaming the country's profound humanitarian crisis on Washington.
"The United States has been perpetrating a coup d'-tat against us for 20 years," Arreaza said. "I won't go on, but economic sanctions have been posed, not just individually rather also on our economy. Now it is difficult to buy medicines, to buy foodstuffs. This is the fault of the United States" and other countries that follow its lead, he said.