The Trump administration has stepped up economic pressure on Venezuela, announcing new financial sanctions which prohibit US citizens from purchasing any Venezuelan debt.
The move comes in response to the reelection of President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday, which official Washington has dismissed as a “sham” and refused to recognize.
“We call for the Maduro regime to restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression and economic deprivation of the Venezuelan people,” Trump said in a statement.
President Donald Trump’s executive order covers all transactions on debts owed to the Venezuelan government or its state-owned companies, including oil company Petroleos de Venezuela. The order also prevents the Venezuelan government from liquidating assets where it has a majority ownership. However, it stopped short of imposing sanctions on oil sales, which would have crippled the country’s economy.
“Today’s executive order closes another avenue for corruption that we have observed being used,” one senior US official told reporters on Monday.
US Vice President Mike Pence dismissed the Venezuelan election as “neither free nor fair” and said the “fake process” was a blow to the “proud democratic tradition” of Venezuela.
“America stands against dictatorship and with the people of Venezuela,” Pence said.
In the run-up to the election, however, Washington sought to interfere and meddle in the vote by repeatedly attempting to tarnish the reputation of Maduro and his ruling Socialist Party, even going so far as to link him to drug trade.
Last week, the US Treasury announced sanctions against Diosdado Cabello, vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, along with his wife and brother, accusing them of being involved in the drug trade and dividing the proceeds among themselves and Maduro.
When those sanctions were imposed, Cabello’s brother Jose accused the US of trying to “divert the attention of the world” from the strong support the Socialist Party enjoyed in advance of the election. He added that new sanctions from the US would hurt ordinary Venezuelan people. Earlier in the month, the US also sanctions 20 Venezuelan companies with alleged ties to Maduro.
US sanctions have nothing to do with democracy or drug trafficking and Washington is simply intent on overthrowing his government in another regime change operation, says Maduro, who was reelected with 68 percent of the votes cast.
Last year, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo said that he was “hopeful” there could be a “transition” of government in Venezuela and said that the CIA is “doing its best” to “understand the dynamic” in the country. Pompeo is now the US secretary of state.
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