Tillerson: US might put pressure on Venezuela by restricting oil sales

Tillerson: US might put pressure on Venezuela by restricting oil sales
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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE said on Sunday that the U.S. might apply pressure on Venezuela by restricting the sale of oil from the South American country. 

"We did discuss Venezuela fairly extensively, including what additional steps could be taken to increase the pressure on the [President Nicolás] Maduro regime to return to the constitution, return to their constitutional process, and that’s all we’ve asked — is that they return to the constitution, return to free, fair, and verifiable elections. And that is our only objective," Tillerson said at a press event with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie. 

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The secretary went on to say he wanted to figure out ways U.S. oil companies can avoid the negative effects sanctions on Venezuela could have for them. 

"Obviously, sanctioning the oil or in effect prohibiting the oil to be sold in the United States, or for the United States as well to sell or provide oil to Venezuela, or refined products, is something we continue to consider," he said.

"I think, as the foreign minister indicated, we — our disagreements are with the Venezuelan regime, not the Venezuelan people," he said, adding that "the Venezuelan people are suffering mightily under the current circumstances."

Venezuela is the third-largest oil supplier to the U.S. 

Tillerson made the comments during a visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, as part of his Latin America and Caribbean tour. 

Relations between Washington and Caracas have steadily worsened amid efforts by Maduro to consolidate power. 

Tillerson said on Thursday that the U.S. is not advocating "regime change" in Venezuela, but said it is possible the country's military could move to oust Maduro from his post. 

"I think there will be a change. We want it to be a peaceful change," Tillerson said. "Peaceful transitions, peaceful regime change, is always better than the alternative."

— Updated 4:45 p.m.