The new U.S. special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, testified on Capitol Hill Wednesday on U.S. efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. Abrams spoke three weeks after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s new president. Since then, the U.S. has placed sweeping sanctions on Venezuela’s state-run oil company and rejected calls for an international dialogue to resolve the crisis. Elliott Abrams is a right-wing hawk who was convicted in 1991 for lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal, but he was later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. Abrams defended Guatemalan dictator General Efraín Ríos Montt as he oversaw a campaign of mass murder and torture of indigenous people in Guatemala in the 1980s. Ríos Montt was later convicted of genocide. Abrams was also linked to the 2002 coup in Venezuela that attempted to topple Hugo Chávez. Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar of Minnesota questioned Abrams about his record on Wednesday during his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
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