'US preparing to add Venezuela to list of terror sponsors'
Washington : The US is preparing to add Venezuela to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the media reported.
The list is reserved for governments accused of repeatedly providing "support for acts of international terrorism" and includes only Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
Republican lawmakers led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio have pushed for the designation, citing Venezuela's alleged ties to the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other groups.
Rubio, who organised a letter in September calling for the terrorism designation, has clamoured for a tough US posture toward Venezuela.
American officials have, however, declined to say whether a final decision had been made about the designation, but in recent days the State Department has asked for feedback on the proposed move from various agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Agency for International Development.
A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the pending decision, calling inquiries about the deliberations a "hypothetical question".
The US has imposed sanctions on a number of people in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's inner circle, accusing First Lady Cilia Maduro, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Vice President Delcy Rodríguez and other allies of helping the socialist leader "plunder" the nation's wealth.
Administration officials have long said that further measures were under consideration, including an embargo on Venezuelan oil.
Despite sharply falling oil exports in recent years, Venezuela is the fourth-largest foreign supplier to the US, which remains the largest purchaser of Venezuelan crude.