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US imposes sanctions on Venezuelan oil company to block Maduro's finances


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The United States on Monday imposed sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA in a bid to cut off financial resources to President Nicolas Marudo and redirect them towards the country's self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido.
"We have continued to expose the corruption of (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro and his cronies and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," Sputnik quoted National Security Advisor John Bolton saying in a White House press briefing on Monday.
He further called on all "responsible nations" to recognise Guaido as the country's legitimate head of state, CNN reported.
Bolton confirmed that Vice President Mike Pence plans to meet with Guaido's envoy to the United States soon.
"The vice president has had several conversations with interim president Guaido, including the night before we granted recognition. He will be meeting with Guaido's ambassador here in the near future," the National Security Advisor said.
In a separate statement, Bolton said he believes the Venezuelan military was looking for ways to support Guaido.
The Donald Trump administration also announced that it will block assets worth USD 7 billion owned by PDVSA.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that all purchases of Venezuelan oil made by US companies will be transferred into a blocked account.
"The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline," he said during Monday's press briefing.
On Monday, Guaido ordered to start reappointing the boards of directors of PDVSA oil and gas company and its subsidiary in the United States - Citgo.
"To start the process of appointing the boards of directors of PDVSA and Citgo that will allow us to begin the process of recovery of our industry, which is now facing hard times. We make this decision to ensure that Citgo continues to be a Venezuelan company," Guaido said in a statement on Twitter.
PDVSA employees, led by company's head Manuel Quevedo, have repeatedly expressed their support for Maduro.
US officials said that the sanctions were imposed to prevent the Maduro government from syphoning funds from PDVSA.
The situation in Venezuela, which has been struggling to overcome a political crisis amid the opposition's refusal to recognize last year's re-election of Maduro, significantly escalated on January 22 when the opposition-controlled National Assembly declared the president a usurper. The very next day, National Assembly Speaker Guaido proclaimed himself Venezuela's interim president.
Maduro called the opposition leader a US officials' puppet and accused Washington of attempting to organize a coup in Venezuela, declaring the decision to cut off diplomatic ties with the country.
While dozens of countries, mostly those in Latin America, have recognized Guaido as the acting Venezuelan president, Russia has reaffirmed its support for Maduro as the legitimately elected head of state.
On Saturday, European powers such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom gave Maduro an ultimatum stating that they would recognize Guaido as interim president if new elections were not announced in Venezuela within eight days. Maduro, for his part, has rejected the ultimatum, saying that it ignored Venezuela's rights of a sovereign state.

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First Published: Jan 29 2019 | 4:19 AM IST

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