U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced the United States would be removing sanctions on Venezuela’s former intelligence chief, General Manuel Cristopher Figuera, in statements made at the annual U.S. State Department’s Washington Conference on the Americas, May 7.
The previous week, Gen. Figuera joined Interim President Juan Guaidó, in support of democracy in Venezuela and sent a clear message to military leaders still working for the regime of Nicolás Maduro that there is another path should those military leaders decide to break ranks.
“The United States of America will consider sanctions relief for all those who step up for the constitution and support the rule of law,” Pence said. “I hope the actions our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of General Cristopher Figuera,” he added.
In the wake of efforts Interim President Guaidó dubbed Operation Freedom, Gen. Figuera wrote a letter to the Venezuelan people saying it was time to “rebuild the country.” That letter was widely circulated on social media. A U.S. official later confirmed its authenticity.
Gen. Figuera went on to say that “corruption had become so rampant that many high-ranking public servants practice it like a sport. The hour has arrived for us to look for other ways of doing politics,” Gen. Figuera wrote.
On April 30, more than two dozen members of the Venezuelan military requested asylum at the Brazilian Embassy in Venezuela’s capital of Caracas, according to a spokesperson for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Admiral Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, echoed Pence’s sentiments stating that the Venezuelan military must decide if it supports the people or a “tyrant,” referring to Maduro.
“Our legitimacy begins with the oath that each of us makes to protect our citizens and our constitutions,” said Admiral Faller on May 8 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, during a security conference with Central American Chiefs of Defense. “Fulfilling our oaths, no matter what, is our sacred duty,” he added.