The sanctions target Venezuela’s government assets in the US, as well as individuals, companies, and countries doing business with Caracas.
“All property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela that are in the United States… are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in,” the executive order signed by US President Donald Trump reads.
The announcement was reinforced by a barrage of threats issued by US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who said “anyone” dealing with President Nicolas Maduro and his government will face secondary sanctions. He singled out Moscow, which has been engaged in economic and military cooperation with Venezuela for a long time.
“The United States is acting assertively to cut off Maduro financially, and accelerate a peaceful democratic transition,”Bolton said. “We say again to Russia, and especially to those who control its finances: ‘Do not double down on a bad bet!’”
The US will not recognize any elections held in Venezuela as long as Maduro stays in power, Bolton warned, adding that countries, companies, and individuals must choose between doing business with Caracas or Washington.
The aggressive move and rhetoric prompted an angry reaction in Caracas, which branded the US’ actions acts of“economic terrorism,” but said the US’ decision is hardly surprising. The new sanctions only “formalize a criminal economic, financial, and commercial blockade that has already started,” Venezuela’s Foreign Ministry said. It also vowed to not allow the “escalation of aggressions” to affect “political dialogue processes.”
Relations between the US and Venezuela have not been smooth for the past two decades, but the past few months have seen them taking a nosedive. Earlier this year, the political situation in Venezuela rapidly deteriorated after the leader of the National Assembly (which opposes Maduro’s government), Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself ‘interim president’ of Venezuela.
Washington and its allies rushed to recognize the self-styled ‘president’ as legitimate, but Guaido’s repeated attempts to install himself in the presidential palace have failed so far. Russia, China, and many other countries have voiced their support for the elected government and have condemned the attempts to push through the US-backed coup.