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United States Recognizes the Opposition Government in Venezuela and Imposes Sanctions as Tensions Escalate

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The Trump administration formally recognized Juan Guaidó as the interim president of Venezuela on January 23, 2019, making the United States the first nation to officially accept the legitimacy of Guaidó’s government and reject incumbent President Nicolás Maduro's claim to the presidency. In a campaign designed to oust Maduro from power, the United States has encouraged foreign governments and intergovernmental organizations to recognize Guaidó and has imposed a series of targeted economic sanctions to weaken Maduro's regime. As of June 2019, however, Maduro remained in power within Venezuela.

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References

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* Kristen DeWilde, Emily Kyle, Patricia Liverpool, Sabrina Ruchelli, Jenna Smith, and Brian Yeh contributed to the preparation of this section.

1 William Neuman & Nicholas Casey, Venezuela Election Won by Maduro Amid Widespread Disillusionment, N.Y. Times (May 20, 2018), at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/20/world/americas/venezuela-election.html. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disclaimed the election process as an “unconstitutional interruption of Venezuela's democratic order.” U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Secretary Pompeo's Participation in a Meeting of the Lima Group (May 14, 2018), at https://www.state.gov/secretary-pompeos-participation-in-a-meeting-of-the-lima-group [https://perma.cc/M3LT-SQLT].

2 The Lima Group was formed on August 8, 2017, in response to the critical situation in Venezuela. Declaración de Lima [The Lima Declaration], Aug. 8, 2017, at http://www.rree.gob.pe/SitePages/declaracion_conjunta.aspx?id=DC-007-17. The Lima Group consists of the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru. Id. The January 2019 announcement included Guyana and St. Lucia and did not include Mexico. Declaración del Grupo de Lima [Declaration of the Lima Group], Jan. 4, 2019, at https://www.gob.pe/institucion/rree/noticias/24270-declaracion-del-grupo-de-lima. The meeting preceding this announcement also included U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Megan Specia, Envoys Denounce Venezuela's Maduro and Urge Him to Cede Power, N.Y. Times (Jan. 4, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/04/world/americas/diplomats-venezuela-maduro.html.

3 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Actions Against Venezuela's Corrupt Regime (Jan. 10, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/actions-against-venezuelas-corrupt-regime [https://perma.cc/4D2Q-9AFL].

4 Edward Wong, Pence Tells Venezuelans That U.S. Backs Efforts to Oust Maduro, N.Y. Times (Jan. 22, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/americas/venezuela-usa-nicolas-maduro.html; Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela [Constitution] 1999, Art. 233.

5 Joe Parkin Daniels & Mariana Zúñiga, Venezuela: Who Is Juan Guaidó, the Man Who Declared Himself President?, Guardian (Jan. 23, 2019), at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/15/juan-guaido-venezuelan-opposition-leader-challenging-maduros-rule.

6 Donald J. Trump, Statement Announcing United States Recognition of National Assembly President Juan Gerardo Guaidó Marquéz as Interim President of Venezuela, 2019 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. No. 046 (Jan. 23) [hereinafter Guaidó Recognition].

7 In Zivotofsky v. Kerry, the Supreme Court held that the president possesses the “exclusive recognition power,” including “the authority to acknowledge, in a formal sense, the legitimacy of other states and governments,” as a power “essential to the conduct of Presidential duties … that Congress may not qualify.” Zivotofsky v. Kerry, 135 S. Ct. 2076, 2087 (2015).

8 Guaidó Recognition, supra note 6.

9 Id.

10 Ana Vanessa Herrero, After U.S. Backs Juan Guaidó as Venezuela's Leader, Maduro Cuts Ties, N.Y. Times (Jan. 23, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/world/americas/venezuela-protests-guaido-maduro.html.

11 Maduro immediately ordered the expulsion of U.S. diplomats from Venezuela, although he rescinded that order several days later. Ana Vanessa Herrero & Megan Specia, Venezuelan President Does an About-Face That Allows U.S. Diplomats to Stay, N.Y. Times (Jan. 26, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/world/americas/nicolas-maduro-juan-guaido-venezuela-diplomats.html. In the interim, Pompeo stated that “[t]he United States does not recognize the Maduro regime as the government of Venezuela” and “[a]ccordingly … does not consider former president Nicolas Maduro to have the legal authority to break diplomatic relations with the United States or to declare our diplomats persona non grata.” U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Continuing U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Venezuela (Jan. 23, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/continuing-u-s-diplomatic-presence-in-venezuela [https://perma.cc/X3DZ-GTLP].

12 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, On the Withdrawal of U.S. Diplomatic Personnel from Venezuela (Mar. 11, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/on-the-withdrawal-of-u-s-diplomatic-personnel-from-venezuela [https://perma.cc/TG8V-PWG2]. The United States reached an agreement with Switzerland on April 5, under which Switzerland would “act[] as a protecting power for U.S. interests in Venezuela” and “assist U.S. citizens on [the United States'] behalf.” U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Signing of Protecting Power Arrangement for the United States in Venezuela (Apr. 5, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/signing-of-protecting-power-arrangement-for-the-united-states-in-venezuela [https://perma.cc/PER6-GX8A].

13 Ana Vanessa Herrero & Neil MacFarquhar, Russia Warns U.S. Not to Intervene in Venezuela as Military Backs Maduro, N.Y. Times (Jan. 24, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/world/americas/venezuela-news-maduro-russia.html.

14 Id. (quoted from video recording).

15 President of Russia Event, Telephone Conversation with President of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro (Jan. 24, 2019), at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/59724.

16 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Protecting Venezuela's Assets for Benefit of Venezuelan People (Jan. 29, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/protecting-venezuelas-assets-for-benefit-of-venezuelan-people [https://perma.cc/8SPB-YKYM].

17 Id. In addition to authorizing Guaidó to control property in the name of Venezuela, the Trump administration amended the term “Government of Venezuela” as used in previous executive orders to include: “the state and Government of Venezuela, any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including the Central Bank of Venezuela and Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), any person owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the foregoing, and any person who has acted or purported to act directly or indirectly for or on behalf of, any of the foregoing, including as a member of the Maduro regime.” Exec. Order No. 13,857, 84 Fed. Reg. 509 (Jan. 25, 2019). Trump issued this executive order “in light of actions by persons affiliated with the illegitimate Maduro regime … and continued attempts to undermine the Interim President of Venezuela . . . .” Id.

18 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Remarks at a United Nations Security Council Meeting on Venezuela (Jan. 26, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/remarks-at-a-united-nations-security-council-meeting-on-venezuela [https://perma.cc/ET8L-L8LH].

19 Id.

20 Draft SC Res. 186, para. 3(vetoed Feb. 28, 2019), at https://undocs.org/en/S/2019/186.

21 Michael Schwirtz, Russia Blocks Venezuela Measure at U.N., Calling It a U.S. Ploy for Regime Change, N.Y. Times (Feb. 28, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/28/world/americas/russia-venezuela-veto-united-nations.html.

22 Michael R. Pence, Remarks by Vice President Pence in Press Gaggle (Apr. 10, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-press-gaggle-new-york-ny [https://perma.cc/SM8K-NSFK].

23 Michael R. Pence, Remarks by Vice President Pence at a Special Session of the United Nations Security Council on the Crisis in Venezuela (Apr. 10, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-special-session-united-nations-security-council-crisis-venezuela-new-york-ny [https://perma.cc/7GYD-354W].

24 See, e.g., U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Secretary Pompeo's Meeting with Brazilian Foreign Minister Araujo (Feb. 6, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/secretary-pompeos-meeting-with-brazilian-foreign-minister-araujo [https://perma.cc/8ANZ-LMNX]; Joint Statement by President Donald J. Trump and President Iván Duque Márquez of Colombia on the Crisis in Venezuela, 2019 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. No. 076 (Feb. 13); Michael R. Pence & Fabiana Rosales, Remarks by Vice President Pence and First Lady Fabiana Rosales of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Before Bilateral Meeting (Mar. 27), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-vice-president-pence-first-lady-fabiana-rosales-bolivarian-republic-venezuela-bilateral-meeting [https://perma.cc/A7R8-TSM9].

25 Organization of American States (OAS), Resolución Sobre la Situación en Venezuela [Resolution on the Situation in Venezuela], CP/RES. 1124/19 (2217/19), rev. 2 (Apr. 9, 2019). In response to the OAS decision, the Venezuela Foreign Ministry announced its “irrevocable decision to leave the Organization of American States on April 27, 2019 … given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela cannot remain in an organization that goes to its knees before the imperial interests of the US administration.” Elizabeth Melimopoulos, OAS Recognises Guaido's Envoy Until New Venezuela Elections Held, Al Jazeera (Apr. 10, 2019), at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/oas-recognises-guaido-envoy-venezuela-elections-held-190409210229113.html.

26 European Parliament Resolution of 31 January 2019 on the Situation in Venezuela, 2019/2543(RSP) (2019), at https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2019-0061_EN.html?fbclid=IwAR0yZk2L_n_g0duydjMgGJDIS3brzGgyeXtjYk2fgtibS1uVXUiVwZrw4f8.

29 Id.; see also Rick Gladstone, Venezuela's Top Diplomat Enlists Support from Dozens of Nations to Counter U.S., N.Y. Times (Feb. 14, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/world/americas/venezuela-united-nations-support.html.

30 For additional background, see Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 112 AJIL 103 (2018).

31 Request for Consultations by Venezuela, Measures Relating to Trade in Goods and Services, WTO Doc. WT/DS574/1 (Dec. 28, 2018).

32 Id. at 2. The identified provisions deal generally with the equal treatment of goods, freedom of transit, the elimination of quantitative restrictions, and unrestricted market access. General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 [GATT 1994], Apr. 15, 1994, Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1A, 1867 UNTS 187, 33 ILM 1153 (1994); General Agreement on Trade in Services [GATS], Apr. 15, 1994, Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1B, 1869 UNTS 183, 33 ILM 1167 (1994).

33 Tom Miles, U.S. Objection Over Venezuela Threatens to Halt WTO Trade Disputes, Reuters (Mar. 26, 2019), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-venezuela-wto/u-s-objection-over-venezuela-threatens-to-halt-wto-trade-disputes-idUSKCN1R71KJ; Request for the Establishment of a Panel by Venezuela, Measures Relating to Trade in Goods and Services, WTO Doc. WT/DS574/2 (Mar. 14, 2019) (noting the U.S. refusal to engage with the process).

34 Miles, supra note 33.

35 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Sanctions Against PDVSA and Venezuela Oil Sector (Jan. 28, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/sanctions-against-pdvsa-and-venezuela-oil-sector/ [https://perma.cc/F3Q7-JL22].

36 Id.

37 Edward Wong & Nicholas Casey, U.S. Targets Venezuela with Tough Oil Sanctions During Crisis of Power, N.Y. Times (Jan. 28, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/28/us/politics/venezuela-sanctions-trump-oil.html [hereinafter Oil Sanctions Article].

38 White House Press Release, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders (Jan. 28, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-012819 [https://perma.cc/TMZ9-98H6].

39 Oil Sanctions Article, supra note 37.

40 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, U.S. Sanctions on Venezuelan Individuals and Entities (Feb. 15, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/u-s-sanctions-on-venezuelan-individuals-and-entities [https://perma.cc/MBE5-QX78].

41 Id.

42 U.S. Dep't of Treasury Press Release, Treasury Sanctions Officials Aligned with Former President Nicolas Maduro and Involved in Repression and Corruption (Feb. 15, 2019), at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm612 [https://perma.cc/V5HT-L6S2].

43 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Sanctions Governors of Venezuelan States Aligned with Maduro (Feb. 25, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-sanctions-governors-of-venezuelan-states-aligned-with-maduro [https://perma.cc/E2AT-XCJD].

44 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Sanctions Illegitimate Maduro Regime Security Officials Associated with Violence and Obstruction of International Humanitarian Assistance (Mar. 1, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-sanctions-illegitimate-maduro-regime-security-officials-associated-with-violence-and-obstruction-of-international-humanitarian-assistance [https://perma.cc/UA2M-QRMM].

45 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Revokes U.S. Entry of Maduro-Aligned Individuals and Family (Mar. 1, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-revokes-u-s-entry-of-maduro-aligned-individuals-and-family [https://perma.cc/G5ZH-QUAR].

46 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams (Mar. 8, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/special-representative-for-venezuela-elliott-abrams [https://perma.cc/44YM-7QEU].

47 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Briefing with Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams (Mar. 15, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/briefing-with-special-representative-for-venezuela-elliott-abrams [https://perma.cc/LND7-BYVX].

48 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Tightens Sanctions on Venezuela by Targeting Russia-Based Bank (Mar. 11, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-tightens-sanctions-on-venezuela-by-targeting-russia-based-bank [https://perma.cc/7QPD-X3XD].

49 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Sanctions Against Venezuelan Gold Sector (Mar. 19, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/sanctions-against-venezuelan-gold-sector [https://perma.cc/47M8-C38T]; Exec. Order No. 13,850, 83 Fed. Reg. 55,243 (Nov. 1, 2018).

50 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Sanctions Venezuela's State-Affiliated Bank (Mar. 22, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-sanctions-venezuelas-state-affiliated-bank [https://perma.cc/WQ94-8HR7]; White House Press Release, Statement by the Press Secretary on Sanctions Against Major Venezuelan Bank (Mar. 22, 2019), at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-sanctions-major-venezuelan-bank [https://perma.cc/CB82-NSTD].

51 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Sanctions Companies Enabling Shipment of Venezuelan Oil to Cuba (Apr. 5, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-sanctions-companies-enabling-shipment-of-venezuelan-oil-to-cuba [https://perma.cc/6UXS-LJPR] [hereinafter Cuban Oil Sanctions]; U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Takes Action To End Cuba's Malign Influence on Venezuela (Apr. 12, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-takes-action-to-end-cubas-malign-influence-on-venezuela [https://perma.cc/PZ6T-JWFN] [hereinafter Cuba Sanctions].

52 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, The United States Sanctions the Central Bank of Venezuela (Apr. 17, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-sanctions-the-central-bank-of-venezuela [https://perma.cc/LH6X-26LJ] [hereinafter CBV Sanctions].

53 Cuba Sanctions, supra note 51.

54 CBV Sanctions, supra note 52.

55 Clifford Krauss, New U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Aim to Choke Off Government's Finances, N.Y. Times (Apr. 17, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/business/us-venezuela-sanctions-maduro.html.

56 For more information and an up-to-date list of all Venezuela-related sanctions, see U.S. Dep't of State, Venezuela-Related Sanctions, at https://www.state.gov/venezuela-related-sanctions [https://perma.cc/JCY9-HA23].

57 See, e.g., CBV Sanctions, supra note 52.

58 Venezuela Crisis: Guaidó Calls for Uprising as Clashes Erupt, N.Y. Times (Apr. 30, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/world/americas/venezuela-coup-guaido-military.html [hereinafter Uprising Article].

59 Megan Specia, What Is Happening in Venezuela and Why It Matters, N.Y. Times (Apr. 30, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/world/americas/venezuela-crisis.html. A State Department press release emphasized that the United States has provided “more than $213 million in humanitarian assistance to provide life-saving aid and critical basic social services … to the most vulnerable Venezuelans,” despite resistance from the Maduro regime to allow such aid into the country. U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, United States Provides Additional Humanitarian Aid to Venezuelans Who Have Fled Their Country (Apr. 10, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/united-states-provides-additional-humanitarian-aid-to-venezuelans-who-have-fled-their-country [https://perma.cc/LMV2-YV47]; Ernesto Londoño, U.S. Military Starts Flying Aid for Venezuela to Colombia, N.Y. Times (Feb. 16, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/16/world/americas/venezuela-aid-us-air-force.html.

60 Uprising Article, supra note 58.

61 Id.

62 Id.

63 Nicholas Casey, Venezuelan Opposition Leader Steps Up Pressure, but Maduro Holds On, N.Y. Times (Apr. 30, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/30/world/americas/venezuela-guaido-maduro.html.

64 Ana Vanessa Herrero & Rick Gladstone, Maduro Speaks to Troops, Trying to Discredit Guaidó’s Call for Mutiny, N.Y. Times (May 2, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/02/world/americas/maduro-venezuela-troops.html.

65 Interview with Maria Bartiromo of Mornings With Maria on Fox Business Network, Secretary of State, in Washington, DC (May 1, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/interview-with-maria-bartiromo-of-mornings-with-maria-on-fox-business-network-4 [https://perma.cc/S8JE-JD4B].

66 Rick Noack & Terrence McCoy, Emissaries of Venezuela's Government, Opposition in Norway for Talks, Wash. Post (May 16, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/venezuelan-government-and-opposition-reportedly-headed-to-norway-for-talks/2019/05/16/607ee77c-77b4-11e9-bd25-c989555e7766_story.html.

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