Washington says it is prepared to waive sanctions relief for Venezuela’s senior military officers, whose forces blocked a bridge near the border with Colombia, if they break with President Nicolas Maduro and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido (EDINSON ESTUPINAN)

Washington (AFP) – Washington is prepared to exempt Venezuelan military leaders from punitive sanctions if they recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the South American nation’s interim leader, President Donald Trump’s national security advisor said Wednesday.

“The U.S. will consider sanctions off-ramps for any Venezuelan senior military officer that stands for democracy and recognizes the constitutional government of President Juan Guaido,” John Bolton said on Twitter.

“If not, the international financial circle will be closed off completely,” he added, urging the officers to “make the right choice” and align with Guaido instead of embattled President Nicolas Maduro.

The remarks align with those of Trump, who pledged in his State of the Union address Tuesday night to ramp up pressure on Maduro’s socialist government, telling Congress that “we stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom.”

Trump swiftly recognized Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, after he proclaimed himself acting president of Venezuela last month, and has not ruled out a military intervention in the crisis-wracked country.

Guaido has since been recognized by more than 40 countries.

Trump has appeared to relish the fight against Maduro, a leftist firebrand fond of criticizing US foreign policy, who presides over a crumbling economy in which food and basic supplies are scarce and millions have fled to neighboring countries.

US Senator Marco Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the United States from Cuba, whose communist government backs Maduro, also suggested Washington offer protections for those who turn against Maduro.

He tweeted that Venezuelan military leaders like Vladimir Padrino, the minister of defense, “can play an important role in restoring democracy” in Venezuela.

“And if they do, the U.S. & international community should honor the amnesty offered by the legitimate government,” Rubio said.

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