WASHINGTON: A US envoy suggested Thursday that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will be safe from US prosecution if he quits but acknowledged that his departure remained elusive despite a half-year pressure campaign by Washington.
Elliott Abrams, the US pointman on Venezuela, renewed demands that Maduro cede power to opposition chief Juan Guaido but said there was no "personal edge" to the position.
"We are not trying to go after him," Abrams told reporters.
"We are not after punishment or vengeance; we are after political change," he said.
The United States blames Maduro for the economic collapse of Venezuela, from which millions have fled due to basic shortages, and considers him illegitimate after wide reports of irregularities in last year's election.
"Our goal here is a recovery of democracy and prosperity in Venezuela. We believe this cannot be achieved under Nicolas Maduro," Abrams said.
But he acknowledged that there was no sign that Maduro was planning to leave.
"I would have to say I have not yet seen any sign of willingness to negotiate that kind of compromise, which of course is very unfortunate, because that's the way out for Venezuela," he said.
Abrams also said that there were no negotiations between the United States and Maduro, although he said that Washington has spoken to his regime on practical issues such as the status of US government facilities in Venezuela.
More than 50 countries recognize Guaido as the interim president and the United States has slapped sanctions against Venezuela's oil, by far its top export.
The United States has also imposed personal sanctions on Maduro and his family, and US prosecutors frequently take legal action against former officials over allegations of corruption or human rights abuses.
But Maduro still enjoys support from Russia, China and Cuba.