WASHINGTON, D.C.: The White House on Friday amped up pressure on Venezuela’s cash-strapped government, restricting access to vital US capital markets and escalating a standoff between Washington and Caracas.
In a move aimed at leveraging America’s vast financial power against Nicolas Maduro’s regime, President Donald Trump banned US trade in new bonds issued by the government or its cash-cow oil company PDVSA.
That could choke off access to New York debt markets and substantially raise the likelihood of Venezuela being forced into default.
Maduro’s government—which has faced months of deadly mass protests—has been accused of hijacking state institutions and moving ever deeper into autocratic rule.
The measures will “deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule,” the White House said in a statement.
Venezuela denounced the new US sanctions as the “worst aggression” against the country’s people and accused Washington of trying to stoke a humanitarian crisis in the oil-rich, cash-poor country.
“What do they want? They want to starve the Venezuelan people? What is it they’re looking for?” said Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza after talks with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York.
Maduro on Friday called an “urgent” meeting of American companies that buy Venezuelan oil to discuss the Trump administration’s sanctions.
He said the sanctions had created a situation akin to a “financial and economic blockade” and accused opposition leaders in his country of pushing for the US action, calling for National Assembly chief Julio Borges to be tried for treason.
Maduro’s government has been keen to blame the United States for its economic woes and leapt on Trump’s recent suggestions that Washington could intervene militarily—using that as a tool to unite the military.