Merida, March 7, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – US President Donald Trump has extended Washington’s Emergency Decree 13692, which declares Venezuela a “unusual and extraordinary threat” to US national security, for another year.
The decree, which was initially signed by President Obama on March 8, 2015, provided legal background for an escalating series of sanctions against Caracas.
Speaking Tuesday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton told Fox Business reporters that the US government is considering new sanctions against Venezuela as it attempts to support the efforts of self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido in ousting President Nicolas Maduro.
“We’re looking at new sanctions, new measures to tighten our grip on Maduro’s financial wherewithal, to deny his regime the money that they need to stay in power,” Bolton said.
US Special Envoy for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, reinforced the idea on Tuesday, declaring that secondary sanctions against non-U.S. citizens or entities tied to the Maduro government are “clearly a possibility,” with their implementation depending on the “conduct” of the Venezuelan government.
Abrams, who was appointed in late January by the Trump administration, is known for his leading role in the Reagan administration’s Central America policy, including the Iran-Contra scandal, and later for advising George W. Bush in the lead up to the war in Iraq.
Recent US sanctions against Venezuela have included a de facto oil embargo, a prohibition to trade in Venezuelan and state oil company PDVSA bonds, travel bans for a number of high-ranking government officials or military commanders, and the freezing of Venezuelan assets abroad. United Nations independent analysts have classed the sanctions as illegal and harmful to the Venezuelan people.
The US announcements coincided with commemorations held by Venezuelan Chavistas for the sixth anniversary of the passing of ex-President Hugo Chavez. Symbolic events were also held in other parts of the globe to remember Chavez, who succumbed to cancer in 2013.
Comandante Chávez, han transcurrido 6 años de tu siembra y aún duele, como ayer, tu partida. Gracias a tus enseñanzas y a tu ejemplo, hoy continuamos en lucha permanente contra los enemigos que intentaron apagar tu voz tantas veces. ¡Vivirás por siempre en cada victoria! pic.twitter.com/SXDRPBTDvL
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 5, 2019
“Commander Chavez, it has been six years since your passing, your leaving us, and it still hurts as if it were yesterday. Thank you for your teachings and your example, today we continue to struggle permanently against the enemies which have looked to turn off your voice so many times. You will remain alive forever in every victory!” tweeted the President.
Speaking from the Mountain Barracks where Chavez’s remains lie, Maduro offered comment on the recent return of Guaido to Venezuela, warning that “Nothing will break the peace of the Republic.”
He also argued that Guaido poses no threat, telling supporters that his government “pays no attention to [to him].” Analysts have argued that Guaido has been losing political momentum in recent weeks after efforts to force humanitarian aid into the country and appeals for military defections have failed.
“While a crazed minority continues with its hatred and dourfaces [...] we aren’t paying them any attention, compatriots, lets focus on studying, working, national unity,” Maduro declared.
The President also took the opportunity to decorate a number of units of the armed forces which played a role in securing the border on February 23, when the opposition leader led failed efforts to force “humanitarian aid,” into the country.
Finally, Maduro called on government supporters to take to the streets on Saturday, declaring the day as the “Bolivarian Day of Anti-imperialism.” He also called on Venezuelan women to participate in a similar march the day before to commemorate International Working Women’s Day.
For his part, Guaido had likewise called for mobilisations this Saturday, and on Tuesday he announced plans for a “phased” public sector strike to pressure the government.
The announcement was made in Caracas’ Engineers’ Guild after a meeting with some trade unionists. The opposition leader claimed the “phased” strike will help “recuperate” the public sector and limit the government's influence.
However, Guaido made no announcement of when the strike was due to begin, and of which trade unions will take part. Previous opposition calls for strikes have largely been unsuccessful given that the largest trade union federations are politically aligned with Maduro’s government.
Other announcements from Guaido since his return to Venezuela include the naming of Venezuelan Harvard-based economist Ricardo Hausmann as his representative to the Inter-American Development Bank.
Likewise, Guaido has appealed to US banking giant Citibank for an 120 day extension of a scheduled payment of a Venezuelan state loan, arguing that he needs more time as he is “working on ending the usurpation.” According to Reuters, US $1.6 billion of Venezuelan gold was offered as collateral for a loan to a British unit of Citibank in 2015. At the time of writing, Citibank has offered no comment on the issue.