Puebla, Mexico, August 25, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Venezuela Friday, labeling President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator".
Under the new sanctions, US banks are now barred from “dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company,” the White House said in a statement.
“It also prohibits dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela,” it said.
The sanctions were passed as part of an executive order, in which Trump accused Maduro of depriving “the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison[ing] the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppress[ing] freedom of speech”.
Since being elected in 2013, Maduro has overseen a nation struggling with a a deep economic crisis amid low oil prices and soaring inflation. The Venezuelan economy is heavily dependent on oil exports, with state oil firm PDVSA being the government’s single largest source of revenue.
The White House said its sanctions were “calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing” while allowing for some humanitarian exceptions.
“These include provisions allowing for a 30-day wind-down period; financing for most commercial trade, including the export and import of petroleum; transactions only involving Citgo; dealings in select existing Venezuelan debts; and the financing for humanitarian goods to Venezuela,” the White House stated.
The widely anticipated sanctions come days after Vice President Mike Pence hinted earlier this week that Washington would be ramping up pressure on Venezuela.
"Under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to bring the full measure of American economic and diplomatic power to bear until democracy is restored in Venezuela," Pence said during an appearance at a church in Florida. Addressing a crowd including Venezuelan expats, Pence said “our resolve is unwavering”.
"We hear you, we stand with you. We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles," Pence said.
During his visit to Florida, Pence also reportedly met with Venezuelan opposition supporters, including a number of right-wing politicians. Among those Pence reportedly met with was Ramon Muchacho and Gustavo Marcano, two mayors turned fugitives wanted in Venezuela for allegedly failing to rein in violent right-wing groups that are suspected of killing dozens of people.
"There is no way to get [the government] out by democratic means," Muchacho was quoted as stating by AP.
The ex-mayor and other right-wing politicians urged Pence to push for greater sanctions on Venezuela, according to AP.
Earlier this month, Muchacho made headlines when he called US military intervention in Venezuela "inevitable".
Friday’s financial bans are the fifth round of US sanctions to hit Venezuela since the start of the year.
Up until now, US sanctions have been limited to high-level government officials, including Vice President Tareck El Aissami, eight Supreme Court justices, thirteen top officials involved in organizing the National Constituent Assembly, and even President Maduro himself.