26 August, 2017
The sanctions Trump signed by executive order Friday are bound to dramatically escalate tensions between Venezuela and the US and exacerbate the country's economic crisis.
He found an opportunity to argue his case that he's being unfairly targeted after Trump said earlier this month that he wouldn't rule out a "military option" to resolve Venezuela's crisis - comments that were roundly rejected throughout Latin America, even by some of Maduro's toughest critics.
The move prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and the state-owned oil company.
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The White House said it would allow certain exceptions, such as for humanitarian aid, in order "to mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people".
The move came after Washington blacklisted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on July 31, one day after Venezuela held elections for the ANC.
The sanctions heap fresh pressure on PDVSA, the financial engine of Mr Maduro's government, which is already struggling because of low global oil prices, mismanagement, allegations of corruption and brain drain.
But many USA and other global investors holding Venezuelan debt anxious that they also would have been harmed by any punitive measures that prevented the trading of these bonds. Unrest has spread as Maduro has tightened his control of all branches of government and cracked down on dissent while the country's economic crisis continues.
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In other words, they would not affect USA oil imports from Venezuela.
"The president is making sure that the USA financial system will not be complicit in any future further placement of debt that would allow the Venezuelan government to finance this abhorrent behavior", a senior administration official told reporters.
Earlier this week, Vice-President Mike Pence traveled to Florida to meet with Venezuelan exiles.
Maduro, who is among some 30 seniors officials already barred from the USA, seemed nearly resigned to that possibility.
But with Venezuela's streets calmer than they have been for months, and the opposition reeling from its failure to prevent the constitutional assembly from going forward, action from an increasingly concerned worldwide community represents the best chance of reining in Maduro, he added.
Rich in oil resources but poor in cash, the country, whose debt is estimated at more than $ 100 billion, warns the spectre of a payment default.
"There is no way to get [the government] out by democratic means", Muchacho was quoted as stating by AP.
The sanctions are nonetheless another blow to Venezuela's economy.