President Trump signed an executive order imposing new financial sanctions on the “dictatorship” of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, the White House said Friday.
The new action prohibits dealings in new debt issued by the Venezuelan government and its state oil company, PDVSA. The sanctions also prohibit dealings in certain bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector and dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.
The sanctions would also restrict PDVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividends back to Venezuela.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said by imposing more sanctions, Mr. Trump is “keeping his promise of strong action” against the Maduro regime. He said the president has asked his national-security team for “a range of options” if the situation in Venezuela deteriorates further.
“This executive order does not need to be permanent,” Mr. McMaster said, adding that the administration will continue to support the Venezuelan people.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions could be lifted if Venezuela “restores the democratic process” and the rule of law.
He added, “We have made sure that humanitarian efforts are still allowed.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the sanctions “are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance.”
“The United States reiterates our call that Venezuela restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression of the Venezuelan people,” she said.
The U.S has been stepping up sanctions on Venezuelan officials as the socialist government tries to consolidate power in the face of a deteriorating economy and violent protests. The Trump administration has called Mr. Maduro a dictator since the jailing of opposition leaders and his move to change the country’s constitution.
“The Maduro dictatorship continues to deprive the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppress freedom of speech,” Mrs. Sanders said. “The regime’s decision to create an illegitimate Constituent Assembly — and most recently to have that body usurp the powers of the democratically-elected National Assembly — represents a fundamental break in Venezuela’s legitimate constitutional order.”
She said the Maduro government is trying to retain power by rewarding “corrupt officials in the government’s security apparatus by burdening future generations of Venezuelans with massively expensive debts.”
“Maduro’s economic mismanagement and rampant plundering of his nation’s assets have taken Venezuela ever closer to default,” she said. “His officials are now resorting to opaque financing schemes and liquidating the country’s assets at fire sale prices. We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles.”