WASHINGTON.- The US Treasury Department on Friday announced economic sanctions against 34 oil tankers that transport petroleum from Venezuela to Cuba, a new pressure tactic against the government of Nicolas Maduro.
“The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline, and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support Interim President Juan Guaido, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy,” said Treasury Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin, in a statement on Friday.
“Cuba continues to profit from, and prop up, the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as they attempt to keep Maduro in power,” Mnuchin said.
“The United States remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela’s demise,” he added.
“Today’s designation of PdVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela. The path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government,” Mnuchin went on to say.
The sanctions affect two companies – Ballito Shipping Incorporated, based in Liberia, and ProPer In Management Incorporated, based in Greece, as well as the 34 tankers owned by Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA oil company.
The measures include the freezing of the firms’ financial assets under US jurisdiction and prohibit conducting any financial transactions with them.
Vice President Mike Pence on Friday traveled to Houston, the US petroleum hub, to meet with the Venezuelan community in that city and express his support for opposition leader and parliamentary chief Juan Guaido, who in January proclaimed himself Venezuela’s interim president after denouncing Maduro as a “usurper” of power.
Since then, Guaido has received the recognition of 54 nations as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, most of those countries being in Latin America and Europe, along with the US.
However, other great powers like China and Russia have continued to back Maduro.
The US has undertaken various actions designed to pressure Maduro, including revoking visas from certain Venezuelans and imposing sanctions on PDVSA, which is the Caracas regime’s main source of income.
Venezuela has been going through a severe economic and political crisis during which the GDP had contracted significantly amid spiralling hyperinflation, which has led to a scarcity of numerous basic products and the emigration of at least two million citizens.