The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday removed sanctions on Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, who last week broke ranks with the Nicolas Maduro-led government.
Cristopher was sanctioned Feb. 15 for being a Venezuelan government official; he was the director general of Venezuela’s national intelligence service, Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, known as SEBIN. Prior to his role at SEBIN, Cristopher was president, with the rank of director general, of the government organization responsible for coordinating information related to defense, intelligence, internal order, and external relations.
The delisting “shows the good faith of the U.S. that removal of sanctions may be available” for sanctioned people who come out against Maduro, or take “concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order” in Venezuela, the Treasury said.
Maduro is not recognized by the U.S., Venezuela’s neighbors, and European countries as a legitimate leader. However, Maduro has held onto power, and he overcame a U.S.-backed uprising last week by opposition leader Juan Guaido. In the months since Washington recognized Guaido as the interim leader, the U.S. has ramped up its sanctions. Last week, the Treasury alerted financial institutions to widespread Venezuelan graft.
Cristopher oversaw mass torture, human-rights violations and persecution of those seeking democratic change in Venezuela, according to the Treasury designation statement in February. But during the uprising last week, he broke with Maduro, issuing a statement that expressed exasperation with mismanagement and corruption.
His removal was announced by Vice President Mike Pence during a speech in Washington, D.C. The U.S. has sanctioned more than 150 people and companies loyal to Maduro, but it “will consider sanctions relief for all those who step forward, stand up for the constitution, and support the rule of law,” Pence said.
“We hope the action that our nation is taking today will encourage others to follow the example of Gen. Cristopher Figuera and members of the military who have also stepped forward and taken a stand for the Bolivarian Constitution and Libertad,” he added.