New sanctions should be imposed on "bad actors" that do business with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government, Washington's future envoy to Caracas said Thursday, singling out countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and Iran.
"Certainly by the actions we have taken, we've increased cost for bad actors, malign actors in Venezuela. We have to continue to consider other ways to do that," James Story told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his nomination hearing.
Story, who is already the top US diplomat accredited for Venezuela, was nominated for the ambassador post in May by President Donald Trump.
He has been stationed in Colombia since Washington suspended embassy operations in Caracas in March 2019.
Despite heavy, US-led international pressure, Maduro has remained in power and enjoys the support of Venezuela's military, Russia and China despite a crumbling economy that has sent millions of Venezuelans fleeing.
Story cited the examples of free petroleum exports to Cuba, Venezuelan dealings with Russian oil giant Rosneft and Tehran-bound gold.
"We're very concerned about the transport of gold bars to Iran for purchases of which we're unaware," he added.
"I believe that we have to consider all opportunities and to go after companies."
Story also said the United States is already working with the international community to try to locate what he estimated at "hundreds of billions of dollars" in assets that have gone missing from Venezuela in recent decades.
"Venezuela... will need these funds in order to rebuild the institutions that have been destroyed after two decades," he said.