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U.S. Imposes New Oil Sanctions on Venezuela to Ramp Up Pressure
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U.S. Imposes New Oil Sanctions on Venezuela to Ramp Up Pressure

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USA – January 29, 2019

Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.”

Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can’t get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.

On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Security Adviser John Bolton announced the sanctions against Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. ― the parent company of the US-based Citgo oil company ― on Monday afternoon from the White House briefing room. The measure blocks about $7 billion in assets and would result in more than $11 billion in lost assets over the next year, Bolton said.

“Today the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13850 for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy,” the press release reads. “As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of PdVSA subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”

Steven Mnuchin determined that people operating in Venezuela's oil sector are subject to U.S. sanctions. The nation's energy industry is dominated by state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, better known as PDVSA.

Mnuchin said that the sanctions will prevent the nation's oil wealth from being diverted to Maduro and will only be lifted when his regime hands control of PDVSA to a successor government.

"The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government who is committed to taking concrete and meaningful actions to combat corruption," Mnuchin said during a White House news briefing.

Under the sanctions, U.S. companies can continue to purchase Venezuelan oil, but the payments must be held in an account that cannot be accessed by the Maduro government.

"If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we'll continue to take it," Mnuchin said. "Otherwise we will not be buying it."

PDVSA's Citgo refineries in the U.S. will be allowed to continue to operate, but revenue must be placed in an escrow account in the United States. Citgo operates three U.S. refineries with a combined ability to process about 750,000 barrels per day of crude oil into fuels.

As USA Really reported last week, President Donald Trump recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Jan. 23 as the legitimate interim president of Venezuela and the U.S. has continued to ramp up pressure on Maduro to resign.

Now Guaido's coalition is racing to take control of Citgo before an interest payment linked to PDVSA's bonds maturing in 2020 comes due in April, Reuters reported earlier Monday If PDVSA fails to make the payment, it would open a path for creditors to make a claim on Citgo's assets.

Still, Venezuela remains one of the largest suppliers to U.S. refineries. Venezuela shipped an average of 580,000 bpd of crude oil and petroleum products to the country in the year through October 2018, the last month data were available.

Venezuela is a major supplier of heavy oil, which is largely used to produce distillates like diesel and jet fuel. PDVSA relies on imports of super light oil to dilute its heavy crude before its shipped out.

Just two days after Trump recognized Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as an interim president, Elliott Abrams was appointed US special envoy for Venezuela.

71-year-old Abrams is widely remembered in Central America, but particularly from his time in the Reagan administration, when he tried to whitewash a massacre of a thousand men, women and children by U.S.-funded death squads in El Salvador, when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights.

He shrugged off the reports as communist propaganda, and insisted: “The administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement.”

Abrams also helped organise the covert financing of Contra rebels in Nicaragua behind the back of Congress, which had cut off funding. He then lied to Congress about his role, twice. He pleaded guilty to both counts in 1991 but was pardoned by George HW Bush. He was in the White House at the time of the abortive coup in 2002 against Hugo Chávez. The Observer reported that Abrams gave the green light to the putsch, another an inspector general enquiry found no “wrongdoing” by U.S. officials.

Now the U.S. and its allies, including OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, have pushed Venezuela to the precipice. By recognizing National Assembly President Juan Guaido as the new president of Venezuela ― something illegal under the OAS Charter ― the Trump administration has sharply accelerated Venezuela’s political crisis in the hopes of dividing the Venezuelan military and further polarizing the populace, forcing them to choose sides. The obvious, and sometimes stated goal, is to force Maduro out via a coup d’etat.

Announcing the new sanctions, Bolton once again urged the Venezuelan military to abandon Maduro and recognize Guaido's legitimacy and said the U.S. continues to keep all options on the table until Maduro transfers power to Guaido.

"We also, today, call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power," Bolton said. "Now is time to stand for the democracy and prosperity in Venezuela."

During Monday’s White House press briefing, Bolton opined on the “threats” to the U.S. inherent in President Nicolas Maduro’s closeness with Cuba and couldn’t resist dragging Iran into the matter, vis-à-vis its “interest in Venezuela’s uranium deposits.” Bolton seemed to be broadcasting big plans for the regime-change operation in Venezuela when showing a clutched yellow legal pad on which he’d scrawled “5,000 troops to Colombia.”

Asked about the notepad, a White House spokesperson reportedly told CBS, “As the president has said, all options are on the table.”

“If the Trump administration and its allies continue to pursue their reckless course in Venezuela, the most likely result will be bloodshed, chaos, and instability. The U.S. should have learned something from its regime change ventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and its long, violent history of sponsoring regime change in Latin America,” it was emphasized in the open letter which was issued last week in opposition to ongoing intervention by the United States in Venezuela and signed by 70 scholars on Latin America, political science, and history as well as filmmakers, civil society leaders, and other experts.

The reason the U.S. is so obsessed with Venezuela is simple, says Abby Martin, who hosts a show on Venezuelan Telesur, in an interview edition of Redacted Tonight. “We know that the American empire is an expansionist force, we know that capitalism is extremely predatory… and it needs to expand.”

Author: USA Really