The United States is reportedly considering adding Venezuela to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Including the South American socialist state on the list could impose further financial restrictions on Caracas at a time when it is already battling hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and a mass exodus of citizens.
Discussions are thought to have moved forward in recent days following lobbying by Republican senator Marco Rubio, who has long pressed the Trump administration to take a tougher stance against Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro’s regime, Reuters reported.
A time frame for a decision on whether to include the country on the list is not thought to have been determined.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior US official said earlier this month the Trump administration was “looking at all potential avenues” to pressure Mr Maduro's government.
“We believe his presidency to be illegitimate,” the official said, reiterating Washington's rejection of the outcome of Venezuela's elections earlier this year.
“Maduro won a new six-year term in May but his main rivals disavowed the election and alleged massive irregularities.
“The regime really understands that the world is getting smaller for them. And that's the kind of pressure that is needed to really change minds in the regime. The sanctions are having an effect.”
However, the source said it would be a challenge for the government to provide concrete proof linking the Maduro government to terrorism if it decides to place Venezuela on the list.
The four countries currently included – North Korea, Iran, Sudan and Syria – have been found to “have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism".
Mr Rubio and two other Republican senators sent a letter to Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, in September, accusing Venezuela of links to Lebanon's Hezbollah militant group and the Farc guerrilla movement in Colombia without offering proof.
Donald Trump has ordered several rounds of sanctions against Caracas since 2017, including an executive order signed on 1 November aimed at disrupting Venezuela's gold exports.
The European Union also announced earlier this month it would extend its existing sanctions against Venezuela for a further year after accusing the regime of violating democracy and human rights.
Mr Maduro denies limiting political freedoms and has previously claimed he is the victim of an “economic war” led by Washington.
Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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