Pence demands that Venezuela suspend 'so-called' elections

A customer displays new 500 Bolivar banknotes in Caracas Venezuela Jan. 17 2017

The United States has asked the countries of the Western Hemisphere to suspend Venezuela from the 35-nation Organization of American States.

Pence also decried Maduro's refusal to accept worldwide aid even as the economic crisis endangers Venezuelans.

US Vice President Mike Pence Monday called Venezuela's May 20 presidential election "a fraud and a sham", indicating the Trump administration may be preparing to use the elections as a trigger for new oil sanctions to pressure the Maduro regime.

A little-known independent candidate withdrew his bid for Venezuela's presidency on Tuesday to back Henri Falcon, who is the main challenger to incumbent leader Nicolas Maduro.

"We believe it is time to do more, much more", Pence said in an address to the OAS.

Meanwhile, new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a speech in Washington that "a dictator in Venezuela paralyzes its economy and starves its people", urging for U.S. action.

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On Monday, the Venezuelan representative to the OAS, Samuel Moncada, rejected Pence's statements and attempted to show USA concern for the people of the region as hypocritical, citing the tens of thousand of Central America refugees who have lost their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) during the Trump administration, making them subject to deportation to countries where they face threats of violence and death.

Martin exploited his position as a former Chief of Financial Intelligence for Venezuela's National Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services and accepted bribes from drug traffickers in Venezuela and Colombia to traffic narcotics through Venezuelan airspace, OFAC said. They are owned or controlled by the three individuals, the U.S. Treasury said in a statement on its website.

Maduro, himself subject to sanctions past year, regularly laughs off Washington's disapproval and blames the U.S.

Oil prices rose to their highest levels since late 2014 on Monday, boosted by fresh troubles for Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and a looming decision on whether the United States will reimpose sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

Martin is also accused of laundering the narcotics' proceeds through planes full of US dollars, couriers and contracts with third parties. The move could deal a further blow to the company's declining oil output and exports.

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