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Exclusive: Pence offering "carrots" to Venezuela military, warnings to judges



WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Vice President Mike Pence yesterday on Tuesday to offer new incentives to Venezuela's military to turn to President Nicolas Maduro, who responded to a rebellion who celebrated last week, a senior official told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: US Vice President Mike Pence President comments on the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) 148th Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, April 26, 2019. REUTERS / Leah Millis [19659003] In a speech to the Americas Society at the State Department, scheduled for 3:25 pm (1925 GMT), Pence will also warn that the United States will soon move to sanction 25 additional judges in Venezuela's Supreme Court, the official said on Monday and spoke on terms of anonymity.

Pence will also offer assistance to refugees who have moved the country and a financial aid package that relies on a political transition, according to the official.

Pence speech will be the first look at Trump administration's recalibrated strategy after massive street protests last week led by Juan Guaido, the US opposition leader and most other Western countries.

Guaido had described the protests as the start of his "final phase" to challenge Maduro, but mass military defects failed to come true.

President Donald Trump has invested a major political capital in the diplomatic and economic intervention of the Venezuela crisis.

Although Guido's attempted rebellion failed to immediately detach Maduro, it revealed new cracks within the country, the official said.

"One week before last year, all the media – including everyone, wrote about how there is no forward, deadlock," said the official.

"Suddenly last week, everyone woke up."

NEW VOICES AND A STICK

Guaido, the country's president, called on Venezuela's constitution in January to explain its interim president to the country and argued that Madur's 2018 re-election was illegal.

Maduro – who has said Guaido is a Washington doll – has tried to show that the military remains on his side, but opposition leaders and US officials have said the support is tough.

"They were back in the barracks and they are there, but they do not want to be identified as the institutional source of oppression," the official said.

Pence will offer new "carrots" to the Venezuelan military, the highest official told Reuters and declined to give details of the pre-century incentives.

"He will show where the opportunities lay if people are doing the right thing," said the official.

Pence will also describe new aid to Venezuelans who flee the oil-rich OPEC member, who has been plagued by hyperinflation and lack of food, water, power and medicine – and an economic aid plan for Day 1 for Venezuela is dependent on Madur's resignation. allow the official.

The vice president will also deliver a "warning shot" to judges of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The Treasury Department sanctioned the President of the Court, Maikel Moreno, 2017 and the seven main members of his constitutional chamber – and is now preparing to sanction the 25 remaining judges, the official said.

"We think that is where the pressure must be," the official said.

"All 32 judges in the TSJ will sink or swim together," said the official, acronym for the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia.

The court would be responsible for signing any guarantee for an arrest of Guaido – a move the US official emphasized would have serious consequences.

In January, the United States imposed severe sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil companies, PDVSA. Oil accounts for 90% of export revenues for Venezuela.

The administration also continues to work on other responses to increasing the financial pressure on Maduro, including "secondary sanctions" on companies from other countries doing business with Venezuela, and additional shipping penalties for oil, the official said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney

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