HAVANA TIMES – Donald Trump went a step further in his pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and imposed for the first time a round of financial sanctions that include the blockade of the Venezuelan government’s debt bond trade and that of the State oil company PDVSA, reported dpa news.
“President Donald Trump has signed an executive order imposing new and harsh financial sanctions on the dictatorship in Venezuela,” the White House announced.
Trump’s measure prohibits US citizens or companies from buying new bonds and bonds from the Venezuelan state and from the oil company.
It also restricts the bond negotiation that the Venezuelan State has, as well as the payment of dividends for them. There will be, however, a 30-day grace period before implementation.
The United States thus attacks one of the main channels of financing of the Government of Maduro. It also targets sanctions for the first time on the state oil company PDVSA, although at the moment, the White House did not take the big step of imposing an oil embargo. In fact, it leaves out of the sanctions approved today the export and import of crude oil.
Parallel to the sanctions, the Treasury Department has issued licenses to certain transactions “to mitigate the damage to the American and Venezuelan people” and the trade of crude oil is one of them. Transactions involving Citgo, the US subsidiary of PDVSA, are thus far protected.
The measures approved today have been carefully calibrated, explained the White House, to cut Maduro off on a crucial source of funding and prevent the US financial system from contributing “to the corruption and impoverishment of the Venezuelan people.”
Most trade between the two countries could continue to be financed as well as humanitarian assistance.
The new round of sanctions comes two days after Vice President Mike Pence met in Florida with representatives of the Venezuelan diaspora in the United States and promised them that the Trump Government will continue to pressure Maduro until democracy returns to the South American country.
Pence, however, made no reference to the military option that Trump said two weeks ago that he did not rule out, sparking a wave of criticism in Latin America.
“We will continue to act,” Pence assured the Venezuelan exiles, and spoke of continuing to exert economic and diplomatic pressure.
“The United States will not sit still watching Venezuela crumble,” Trump himself said in mid-July, when he threatened Maduro with “strong and swift economic action” if he continued the Constituent Assembly process.
This new round of sanctions is the fifth by the United States since Trump came to the White House. The first was in February, when the Treasury Department included Venezuelan vice president, Tareck El Aissami, on the drug trafficking list. In May, it imposed sanctions on eight members of the Supreme Court, including its president.
But it was following the call for the election of an all-powerful Constituent Assembly when the US increased significantly the pressure. On July 26, Washington sanctioned 13 officials related to the promotion of the Constituent Assembly, and the day after the July 30th vote, it sanctioned Maduro directly, freezing any bank accounts or assets he could have in the United States.
“Yesterday’s illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disparages the Venezuelan people’s desires,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, after the vote whose full results were never released.
After the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly, the Trump administration sanctioned six members of the Assembly, including the elder brother of the late President Hugo Chavez.