The United States has appointed its first ambassador for Venezuela in 10 years despite Washington having no diplomats at its Caracas embassy and mutual relations being at their lowest level. James Story's nomination as ambassador was confirmed on Wednesday by a U.S. Senate voice vote. The South Carolina native will carry out his job from neighboring Colombia's capital. Venezuela endures a historic economic crisis, caused mainly by continuing sanctions from the U.S. and the EU.
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The U.S. and Venezuela had not exchanged ambassadors since 2010 when relations first started to fray under late President Hugo Chávez. The two nations broke diplomatic ties last year, each withdrawing its diplomats shortly after Washington recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s self-appointed president.
Story, 50, will likely play a key role in guiding U.S. policy on Venezuela during the transition of President-elect Joe Biden. Biden’s win has sparked debate among those who back President Donald Trump’s hardline approach of isolating his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro and others who say it is time for a new course.
Many anti-Maduro critics say heavy sanctions have failed to remove Maduro from power, opening Venezuela to U.S. competitors such as China, Russia, and Iran, while making life harder on millions of Venezuelans.
The U.S. has waged an economic, political, and diplomatic war against Venezuela, following his election in 2018 to a second term in a vote Washington called fraudulent. Since then, the Trump administration has imposed heavy sanctions on his government, his inner circle, and have frozen international assets from the state-run oil firm, attempting to choke the country´s economy to bring about political change.