Conservatives on Capitol Hill and throughout Washington’s foreign-policy community are outraged over a State Department decision to give nearly $1 million to a Washington think tank to help mediate a dialogue between Venezuelan opposition leaders and the Maduro regime.

Critics view the mediation effort as an attempt by State Department bureaucrats to undermine President Donald Trump’s sanctions against the Venezuelan government, which were imposed to punish President Nicolas Maduro for unraveling the country’s democratic processes.

They worry that Maduro will use the U.S.-sponsored dialogue as evidence that even the United States wants the opposition to compromise with his government, according to two congressional sources.

Maduro on Sunday moved to further consolidate power by barring some of his biggest political opponents’ from running in next year’s presidential election.

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