Trump freezes Venezuelan government's assets in bid to pressure Maduro

Published Aug 6, 2019


WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump

imposed a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the

United States on Monday, sharply escalating an economic and

diplomatic pressure campaign aimed at removing socialist

President Nicolas Maduro from power.

The executive order signed by Trump goes well beyond the

sanctions imposed in recent months against Venezuela's state-run

oil company PDVSA and the country's financial sector,

as well as measures against dozens of Venezuelan officials and


Trump's action, the toughest yet against Maduro, not only

bans U.S. companies from dealings with the Venezuela government

but also appears to open the door to possible sanctions against

foreign firms or individuals that assist it.

Russian and Chinese companies are among those still doing

significant business in the South American OPEC nation.

"All property and interests in property of the Government of

Venezuela that are in the United States ... are blocked and may

not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise

dealt in," according to the executive order released by the

White House.

The scope of the announcement came as a surprise even to

some Trump administration allies. "This is big," said Ana

Quintana, senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, a

conservative Washington think tank.

Quintana said it appeared the order would be a sweeping

embargo on doing business with Venezuela, although she was

awaiting further details.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond immediately

to a request to comment.

The United States and most Western nations have called for

Maduro to step down and have recognized Venezuelan opposition

leader Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate president.

Guaido, accused by Maduro of mounting a U.S.-directed coup

attempt, appointed a board for Citgo Petroleum, Venezuela's most

important foreign asset, earlier this year.


Trump said on Thursday he was considering a quarantine or

blockade of Venezuela, although he did not elaborate at the time

on when or how such a blockade would be imposed.

He is taking more dramatic action after numerous rounds of

sanctions failed to turn Venezuela's military against Maduro or

make significant progress in dislodging him.

U.S. officials have long said they had other weapons in

their economic arsenal, even as they privately expressed

frustration that European partners and others had not taken

stronger steps and that the months-long pressure campaign had

not made more headway.

Trump said in a letter to Congress the freezing of assets

was necessary "in light of the continued usurpation of power by

the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro regime, as well as the regime's

human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and detention of

Venezuelan citizens, curtailment of free press, and ongoing

attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaido."

His executive order also threatened sanctions against anyone

assisting Maduro or his loyalists, suggesting that Washington

could resort to so-called secondary sanctions against

third-country companies and individuals.

Fernando Cutz, a former top Trump adviser on Latin America,

said the executive order could be applied to non-U.S. firms and

entities, limiting their ability to do business with Venezuela

if they wanted to continue to deal with U.S. companies or banks.

China and Russia continue to trade oil with Venezuela. The

move could escalate tensions with China, already inflamed by a

tit-for-tat trade war, said Cutz, now a senior associate with

the Cohen Group, a consulting firm.

China and Russia - together with Cuba - have continued to

back Maduro, prompting U.S. national security adviser John

Bolton to warn Beijing and Moscow on Monday against doubling

down in their support for him.

Bolton is slated to give a speech on Tuesday morning at a

gathering of more than 50 countries in Lima, Peru, that would

outline a planned U.S. initiative to lead to a peaceful transfer

of power in Venezuela.

Moscow and Beijing turned down invitations to attend.

A White House official declined to comment on the

implications of the order for foreign companies doing business

in Venezuela, where an economic crisis has driven more than 3

million people to emigrate, fleeing hyperinflation and shortages

of food and medicine.

Trump's order allows exceptions for the delivery of food,

medicine and clothing "intended to be used to relieve human



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