(dpa/NAN) U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Friday imposing new financial sanctions on Venezuela over President Nicolas Maduro’s undemocratic actions amid efforts to consolidate his power.
The move prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and the state-owned oil company.
“These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule,” the White House said.
It added that it would also “protect the U.S. financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption.’’
The move came as Maduro has clamped down on political opposition and consolidated power in his government’s hands.
Venezuela’s economy has been in a free fall and its citizens have suffered from food shortages and a sharp rise in violent crime.
On Aug. 11, Trump issued a surprise threat to Maduro, warning that the U.S. might intervene in the chaos enveloping the South American country.
“I’m not going to rule out a military option,” Trump said.
“We have troops all over the world. … Venezuela is not very far away.’’
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence told an audience in Florida on Wednesday that the U.S. would “bring the full measure of U.S. economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela.’’
The sanctions announced on Friday will apply to new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela on a case-by-case basis, but could exempt some financing necessary “for the legitimate activity of the National Assembly,” a senior administration official told reporters.
The National Assembly had opposed the Maduro government’s efforts to consolidate power — until a controversial special election held earlier on July resulted in a number of Maduro’s supporters coming to power.
The White House had already sanctioned Maduro and key members of his regime after the country went forward in rewriting its constitution to place more power in his hands.
The latest sanctions carved out an exception for financing necessary for oil imports and exports, according to the White House release.
What the White House can actually accomplish with its actions is another matter, however, and Maduro used Trump’s Aug. 11 threat of military action to drum up popular support.
Placing sanctions on Venezuela’s crude oil exports to the U.S. — an option that the administration has said is on the table — would throttle the Maduro government’s much-needed access to hard currency, but would also be likely to precipitate a humanitarian disaster.