US President Joseph Biden’s candidate for the office of Undersecretary of the State Department for the Western Hemisphere, Brian A. Nichols, has said sanctions against the Nicolás Maduro regime must continue.
Nichols made those remarks before the Foreign Committee of the US Congress for his confirmation. He flatly rejected the lifting of oil sanctions. In my opinion, there should be a key focus in our policy, which I must warn, I understand that it is under review within the Administration, so this will be my personal opinion, began his speech when he spoke of the crisis in Venezuela.
“I think we have a great advantage in dealing with Venezuela, that there is a broad multilateral coalition that works to promote democracy. This is something that we have to take advantage of in a rigorous way to push the Nicolás Maduro regime towards free and fair elections,” Nichols said.
“We have to support the Venezuelan people, both politically and in that of opposition leaders and interim President Juan Guaidó, as well as promote humanitarian aid and guarantee that the people of Venezuela have access to health” care.
Regarding oil sanctions, he indicated: With regard to diesel exchanges at this time, as I understand it, there is sufficient diesel capacity within Venezuela for at least the next six months or so.
I think it is something that must be watched and, if we see that there is a problem there for the Venezuelan people, I think it is something that must be looked at, he insisted.
“But I think we have to keep up the economic pressure to negotiate with a government that has shown that it will use delaying tactics to impede progress towards free and fair elections, as well as things like freeing political prisoners and allowing freedom of the press. We have to be very cautious,” he stressed.
Nichols also said that “the extensive efforts of Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and others to avoid sanctions are deeply concerning. We, who want to see democracy in Venezuela, must aggressively challenge those actions and work to ensure that the proceeds of criminal activities do not return to the regime.”
The nominee id the US’ current ambassador to Zimbabwe since 2018 and has served as ambassador to Peru between 2014 and 2017.
If confirmed by the Senate, where Democrats have a narrow majority, Nichols would become the first Afro-descendant to assume the position of head of Latin America in the State Department since Terence Todman did it in 1977.
Nichols gained some media prominence last summer when he broke ranks with the Donald Trump government (2017-2021) and was critical of the death of African-American George Floyd, who lost consciousness while a white policeman pressed his knee against his neck.
A career diplomat, Nichols has extensive experience in Latin America and working in the US to fight drug trafficking. Between 2011 and 2013 he headed the office that is in charge of the fight against drug trafficking in the State Department and between 2007 and 2010 he was the deputy chief of mission in the embassy in Colombia, where he supervised development programs financed with 500 million dollars of American aid.
He also headed the Caribbean subdivision within the State Department, worked in the Central America subdivision and the UN political affairs office. He was deputy political advisor in Mexico and, early in his career, held various positions in the US embassies in El Salvador, Indonesia, and Peru.