President Donald Trump has imposed sweeping sanctions on the Venezuelan government, freezing its assets in the US and barring transactions with it.
This measure is expected to be far more damaging for Venezuela’s socialist government than previous sanctions.
The move is the latest aimed at increasing pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to step down.
The US is one of more than 50 nations that do not recognise Mr Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate president.
It has instead given its backing to the head of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, who declared himself president in January.
President Trump signed an executive order which states that “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of the government of Venezuela that are in the United States… are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in”.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 order also bars transactions with Venezuelan authorities whose assets are blocked, stating that “the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order”.
“The receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” is also banned.
The move really ramps up the pressure on President Maduro by not only targeting his government’s assets in the US but also the individuals, companies and countries doing business with his government.
It means that Venezuela will face many of the US restrictions on Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
It goes much further than previous US sanctions which targeted Venezuelan leaders, including President Maduro himself, and specific state-run entities such as oil company PDVSA, Venezuela’s central bank and its development bank.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton said the new sanctions could be imposed on “anyone who supports” Mr Maduro’s government.
The new measures, he added, would force countries and companies to choose between doing business with the US or with Venezuela.
America would use “every tool to end Maduro dictatorship in Venezuela”, he said.
In a letter to the US Congress, President Trump wrote that he had imposed the measure “in light of the continued usurpation of power by Nicolás Maduro and persons affiliated with him, as well as human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens”. –BBC