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Trump Administration Slaps Economic Sanctions on Venezuela

It’s not an oil embargo. But it does tighten the screws on the Maduro regime.

By , a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews.
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The United States leveled more sanctions on Venezuela Friday, banning dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government, and also by the state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

While U.S. President Donald Trump had previously targeted certain Venezuelan individuals -- including President Nicolás Maduro -- these measures are the first sanctions aimed at the government and state-owned institutions.

The sanctions forbid dealings in “certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector,” according to a statement issued by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday.

The United States leveled more sanctions on Venezuela Friday, banning dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government, and also by the state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA.

While U.S. President Donald Trump had previously targeted certain Venezuelan individuals — including President Nicolás Maduro — these measures are the first sanctions aimed at the government and state-owned institutions.

The sanctions forbid dealings in “certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector,” according to a statement issued by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday.

Certain licenses, however, will be still be issued, including financing for humanitarian goods and transactions only involving Citgo, the Venezuelan-owned American refiner.

These sanctions, in other words, are not an oil embargo.

“The U.S. government will not allow the Maduro regime and a few corrupt individuals to use the U.S. financial system … as a vehicle for their efforts to abuse the Venezuelan people and their constitutional rights,” a senior administration official told reporters on a call Friday.

Protests have shaken the streets of Caracas since April, when the Venezuelan Supreme Court, loyal to the Maduro regime, assumed the responsibilities of the National Assembly, widely seen as a last stronghold of the opposition. Though that decision was mostly reversed, the regime has since pushed out its ally turned critic, prosecutor general Luisa Ortega Diaz, banned leading opposition figure Henrique Capriles from running for office, and organized a constituent assembly, packed with supporters, to rewrite the constitution.

Clashes between protesters and government forces have left over 100 dead.

The senior administration official called on the Maduro regime to hold free and fair elections, respect the National Assembly, and release political prisoners. The new sanctions are designed to pressure the government to switch course.

“The Maduro dictatorship cannot accumulate debt to perpetuate its repressive behavior,” the official said.

Photo credit: JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a global affairs journalist and the author of The Influence of Soros and Bad Jews. Twitter: @emilyctamkin

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