WASHINGTON, D. C.: The Trump administration has frozen all Venezuelan government assets in a dramatic escalation of tensions with Nicolás Maduro.
The ban places Maduro’s socialist administration alongside a short list of adversaries from Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran that have been targeted by such aggressive US actions.
The ban blocks American companies and individuals from doing business with Maduro’s government and its top supporters.
It came Monday night as an executive order from President Donald Trump and takes effect immediately. Trump’s order spares Venezuela’s still sizable private sector.
Yet, it represents the most sweeping US action to remove Maduro since the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader in January.
The order also exposes foreign entities doing business with the Maduro government to US retaliation. US National Security Adviser John Bolton hinted earlier that far-reaching US action was close at hand.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of an international conference in Peru to show support for Guaidó, he said the US was readying measures “that will show the determination that the United States has to get a peaceful transfer of power.”
The measures are likely to exacerbate suffering in already moribund economy marked by six-digit hyperinflation and a deep, multi-year contraction that surpasses that of the Great Depression in the US.
Previous sanctions targeting the South American nation’s oil industry, the source of almost all of its export earnings, have already accelerated a crash in oil production that started with Maduro’s election in 2013, following the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez.
In related news, Venezuela and Uruguay on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) warned their citizens to exercise caution when traveling in the United States.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza advised citizens to “take extreme precautions or postpone their travels in the face of the proliferation of acts of violence and hate crimes.”