The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a state-owned oil firm in Venezuela, the latest move of the Trump administration to mount pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition.
National Security Adviser John Bolton said today that Maduro and his allies could "no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people".
"We took this decision to ensure that Citgo stays in the hands of Venezuelans". "Be on alert, Venezuela!" The U.S. and other countries recognized Guaido last week as Venezuela's rightful president, and he said Monday he would take control of Venezuelan accounts overseas and appoint new boards to PDVSA and its Houston-based subsidiary Citgo Petroleum.
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Juan Guaido, Venezuelan opposition leader and parliament speaker, whose appointment to that position had been cancelled by the country's Supreme Court, declared himself interim president at a rally in the country's capital of Caracas on January 23.
"Experience has proven that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems", foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular media briefing on Tuesday.
Venezuela has sunk into economic and political turmoil under Maduro's socialist government, with inflation seen rising to 10 million percent this year. "The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law", President Trump said. He promised to retain control of the office until free elections are held. Russian Federation also has extensive commercial interests in Venezuela, including state oil company Rosneft's partnership with Petroleos de Venezuela SA, which was placed under US sanctions Monday.
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The Trump administration had long held off targeting Venezuela's oil sector for fear that it would hurt United States refiners and raise oil prices for Americans. "It is hard, impossible to give a different assessment". American companies will only be allowed to buy Venezuelan oil if the payment goes into an escrow account set aside for the rival government of Juan Guaidó.
Mr Guaido, who heads the National Assembly legislature and has named himself acting president, issued his own statement, saying he was taking "orderly control of our republic's assets abroad" to prevent a departing Mr Maduro from trying "to empty the coffers".
If Maduro doesn't comply with this demand, the European Union said it "will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country's leadership in line with article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution".
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