- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2019

The Trump administration on Monday ramped up its economic sanctions on Venezuela, targeting a Russian bank that officials say has provided illicit financing to Venezuela’s embattled socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

In a statement, the Treasury Department said Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a Moscow-based financial institution jointly owned by Venezuela and the Russian government, has helped circumvent international economic sanctions and deliver money to Mr. Maduro. The bank, Treasury officials said, delivers money to the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA, and the money is then funneled to the Maduro regime.

“With this action, we are targeting a financial institution involved in facilitating illegitimate transactions that prolong Maduro’s usurpation of democracy,” Treasury said in its statement. “As Maduro’s isolation grows, so do his desperate attempts to expand his corrupt network. Maduro’s enablers, including those in Russia, are facilitating the continued theft of Venezuela’s assets, allowing members of the illegitimate Maduro regime to line their pockets at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”

Under the sanctions, all of the bank’s U.S. assets will be frozen and all American citizens will be barred from doing business with the bank. Treasury officials cast the financial institution as an example of Mr. Maduro’s greed at the expense of his own people.

“While the illegitimate Maduro regime looks for illicit channels like Evrofinance Mosnarbank to facilitate financial support to state-owned oil company PDVSA, which it then pockets for personal gain, the Venezuelan people are starving and sitting in the dark as their electrical system fails,” Treasury said.

The administration last month said it no longer recognized Mr. Maduro and instead considered opposition leader Juan Guaido to be the nation’s rightful president. But despite heavy pressure from the U.S. and other nations across the hemisphere, Mr. Maduro has refused to step down.

He still enjoys the support of nations such as Russia, which have accused the U.S. of meddling in another country’s affairs.

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