U.S. Takes Steps on Venezuela and President Maduro

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Primer: Venezuela’s diplomatically isolated president got a show of support from his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan and Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona on Thursday ahead of a weekend election widely decried as unfair.

The United States, the European Union and major Latin American countries have criticized Sunday’s vote in which leftist President Nicolas Maduro is likely to win re-election to a six-year term. More here.

Hundreds protest against ‘fixed’ election in Venezuela: (Reuters) – Several hundred Venezuelan opposition demonstrators blocked traffic in a march to the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters in Caracas on Wednesday to protest this weekend’s presidential vote, which they say is rigged.

Related reading: Black Market for Food and Medicine

Actually, this is a gesture and for the most part meaningless, because China has first right of ownership and refusal of Venezuela’s oil, however:

President Donald Trump stepped up economic pressure on Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro with an order prohibiting purchases of debts owed to the government, including to the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela.

The executive order, which covers all transactions on any debts owed to the Venezuelan government or state-owned enterprises including accounts receivable, was posted on the Treasury Department website Monday afternoon.

Trump administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said the order was intended to restrict the Maduro regime’s ability to liquidate its assets and close off avenues for corruption.

The prohibition on purchases of debts owed to Venezuela specifically includes accounts receivable. One administration official said the action was intended to choke off funding the Maduro regime has been raising by selling off money owed in future to the government and state-owned enterprises in exchange for immediate payment cash.

In response, Maduro expelled U.S. diplomats.

CARACAS (Reuters) – President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of the top U.S. diplomat in Venezuela in retaliation for a new round of sanctions over Venezuela’s widely-condemned election.

The United States was among a string of countries that did not recognize Sunday’s vote.

The 55-year-old successor to Hugo Chavez won re-election easily, but critics said the vote was riddled with irregularities, from the barring of two popular opposition rivals to the offering of a government “prize” to voters.

President Donald Trump responded with an executive order limiting Venezuela’s ability to sell state assets, heightening pressure on the cash-strapped government.

A press officer for the U.S. embassy in Caracas said she had no immediate comment in response to Maduro’s statements.

Earlier on Tuesday, Venezuela’s foreign ministry called the sanctions “a crime against humanity.” Maduro’s socialist administration, which has long said a U.S.-led “economic war” is to blame for a deep crisis in the OPEC nation, said the new sanctions violated international law.

“Venezuela once again condemns the systematic campaign of aggression and hostility by the U.S. regime to punish the Venezuelan people for exercising their right to vote,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “These arbitrary and unilateral measures constitute a crime against humanity.”

Venezuela’s opposition has accused the Maduro government of behaving immorally and trying to hide shortcomings and corruption behind bombastic rhetoric. The mainstream opposition coalition boycotted Sunday’s vote, calling it a sham aimed at legitimizing Maduro’s rule despite his low popularity.

Among widespread international condemnation of the vote, the European Union said in a statement on Tuesday that the elections did not comply with “minimum international standards for a credible process” and repeated that it would consider the “adoption of appropriate measures.”

The latest U.S. sanctions appeared to target in part Citgo[PDVSAC.UL], a U.S.-based oil refiner owned by Venezuela state oil company PDVSA [PDVSA.UL]. More obstacles to PDVSA’s ability to sell oil abroad could restrict already-dwindling foreign exchange earnings, worsening the economic crisis and pressuring Maduro.

While it only applies to U.S. citizens and residents, a U.S. official told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration has also tried to convince China and Russia to stop issuing new credit to Venezuela. The two have provided billions of dollars in funding for Venezuela in recent years.

But they appeared unlikely to heed the U.S. warnings. Beijing said on Tuesday it believed the United States and Venezuela should resolve their differences via talks, while Moscow said it would not comply with the sanctions.

Accusing U.S. charge d’affaires Todd Robinson of being involved in “a military conspiracy,” Maduro ordered him and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, to leave within 48 hours.

He gave no details of the accusations, but said the U.S. Embassy had been meddling in military, economic and political issues, and vowed to present evidence to the nation shortly.

“Neither with conspiracies nor with sanctions will you hold Venezuela back,” Maduro said, at an event in downtown Caracas at the headquarters of the election board, which is run by government loyalists. Full story here.


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