US President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order that bars dealings in new debt and equity issued by the Venezuelan government and that nation’s state oil company, PDVSA, the White House press secretary said in a statement.

The measure also “prohibits dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders was quoted by Efe news agency.

The move is the latest action by the United States aimed at heaping pressure on lefist Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration, which the opposition and several foreign governments say has moved to consolidate a dictatorship.

“To mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people, the Treasury Department is issuing general licenses that allow for transactions that would otherwise be prohibited by the executive order,” the White House statement added.

It said those licenses would include “provisions allowing for a 30-day wind-down period; financing for most commercial trade, including the export and import of petroleum; transactions only involving Citgo; dealings in select existing Venezuelan debts; and the financing for humanitarian goods to Venezuela.”

“These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance,” the statement said.

Shortly before the announcement, US Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration would be taking forceful action against Maduro’s government.

The US and many of Venezuela’s regional neighbors have been harshly critical in recent months of Maduro’s push to create a National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

That plenipotentiary body, which was inaugurated early this month after a process boycotted by Maduro’s opponents, has taken over the functions of the unicameral legislature, the National Assembly, the only institution in the opposition’s control.

Maduro has touted the ANC as necessary to lift Venezuela, which had been racked by months of violent opposition-led protests, out of political deadlock and a deep economic crisis.

But Venezuela’s opposition, which has been stymied in its efforts to oust Maduro via a recall referendum, says it is merely a mechanism to increase the president’s stranglehold on power.

The US government has been referring to Maduro’s government as a “dictatorship” since the election of the ANC’s members on July 30.

“As @POTUS (Trump) said, we will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. The birthright of the Venezuelan people has always been & will always be libertad,” Pence tweeted Friday, using the Spanish word for freedom.

The US had earlier imposed sanctions on Venezuelan officials, including Maduro, but thus far it has stopped short of directly targeting the country’s oil sector, the lifeblood of its economy.

First Published | 26 August 2017 7:39 AM
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