Mérida, July 1, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The United States government has announced sanctions targeting President Nicolas Maduro’s only son, adding to a recent plethora of measures landed against Venezuelan state officials.
Nicolas Ernesto Maduro Guerra, who is more commonly known as “Nicolasito,” is a deputy in the National Constituent Assembly (ANC), a member of the United Socialist Party Youth (JPSUV) and director the Corps of Inspectors of the Presidency, an organism created by Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez charged with inspecting public works and reporting the state of the country to the president.
According to a statement by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the sanctions prohibit all US citizens or firms from dealing with Maduro Guerra and “blocks” all US-based properties or interests in which he owns more than a 50 percent stake.
OFAC sentences the 29-year-old for “serving” in his father’s government and for his participation in the ANC. It also accuses him of “censorship efforts” and of having “profited from Venezuelan mines,” among other offenses. The announcement comes after former Venezuelan intelligence chief Manuel Cristopher Figuera alleged last week that Maduro Guerra was heading up a mining-based corruption ring in an interview after fleeing to the United States.
The younger Maduro was quick to reject the OFAC measure, tweeting that he is “stronger than ever, more loyal than ever.”
“Do we, the youth, deserve to be sanctioned for thinking and acting for the liberty of our people?” he asked, adding that he is “proud to be a Chavista and support Nicolas Maduro Moros.” He also denied the claims of corruption, stating that he has “gained no material goods.”
In addition to Maduro Guerra, OFAC announced similar sanctions against former Electrical Energy Minister Luis Motta Domínguez on Thursday, as well as the current vice-minister of finance, investment, and strategic partnerships at the Electrical Energy Ministry, Eustiquio Jose Lugo Gomez.
Motta Dominguez held the electrical energy portfolio from 2015 through the national power outages in March, which the government blame on US “sabotage.” The major-general was sacked by Maduro in April and is facing charges in a South Florida Federal Court for alleged money laundering.
While the measures mark the first time senior electrical energy officials have been sanctioned, the ministry was previously targeted in August 2017 by US financial sanctions as well as a September 2017 financial crimes enforcement directive, hampering its ability to pay foreign companies for maintenance of the electrical grid.
The three men join a list of dozens of high-ranking Venezuelan state officials who have been sanctioned by Washington since 2014, including President Maduro himself, his wife, Cilia Flores, as well as ANC President Diosdado Cabello.
In addition to individual sanctions, the Trump administration has imposed a range of other economic sanctions since August 2017, including a January oil embargo, sparking criticism from the United Nations and other international bodies who qualify the sanctions as “illegal.”
World leaders discuss Venezuela
The latest measures from the White House came as US President Donald Trump placed Venezuela high on his agenda at the G20 Summit in Osaka, Japan over the weekend, talking about the issue “with almost every leader.”
"We have a lot things in store... we don’t want to get involved to the extent you may be thinking, but we have a lot of alternatives, we have five different alternatives for Venezuela. We’ll see what happens,” Trump told reporters after the summit.
His statement came as Washington looked to downplay rumours last week that Trump was losing “interest” and “patience” in removing Nicolas Maduro in favour of self-declared “Interim President” Juan Guaido.
Also in Osaka, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused his US counterpart of using “gunboat diplomacy” in Latin America, while calling on world powers to “let [Venezuelans] sort things out by themselves.”
In a pre-interview with the Financial Times, Putin also clarified that there are no Russian troops in Venezuela but only military specialists stationed to carry out maintenance on purchased military equipment.
He additionally challenged Guaido to compete in elections, suggesting that someone similarly proclaiming themselves “president” in “Japan, the United States or Germany” would “cause chaos all over the world.”
“We should tell him to take part in elections and win them, and then we would work with him as the state leader,” Putin promised. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2025 in Venezuela, despite pressure to bring them forward.
The latest summit also follows a tumultuous general assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Medellin, Colombia last week.
Divisions over Venezuela came to the fore over the accreditation of Guaido’s envoys as representatives for the South American country. Twenty members, including close US allies such as Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, voted to seat Guaido’s delegation, despite Venezuela having withdrawn from the multilateral body in April. Eight countries, including Mexico, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, opposed the move, while six more abstained.
Following the vote, the Uruguayan delegation opted to abandon the summit in protest, calling the decision a “subjugation of the legality of the OAS.” Bolivia also threatened to not recognise any resolutions passed at the meeting.
Despite the diplomatic defeat, Caracas claimed victory on Monday, announcing the “normalization” of diplomatic relations with Germany.
On March 6, Venezuela declared German Ambassador Daniel Martin Kriener persona non grata after the latter met Guaido upon his return to the country following an continental tour in breach of a Supreme Court-ordered travel restriction.
The German government of Angela Merkel had previously joined Spain, France, the UK, and a dozen other European countries in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s head of state. However, Berlin declined to accredit the diplomatic credentials of Guaido’s envoy to the country, Otto Gebauer, continuing to maintain relations with the Maduro government.
Edited and with additional reporting by Lucas Koerner from Caracas.