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US hits Venezuela with billions in oil sanctions to push Maduro out

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (U.S. State Department/Released)
January 28, 2019

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates as more information becomes available.

The United States on Monday issued harsh economic sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company in order to try and put pressure on now-former President Nicolas Maduro and his regime. The move is expected to cost the country billions in exports over the next year.

“Today, the United States has taken necessary actions to prevent the illegitimate former Maduro regime from further plundering Venezuela’s assets and natural resources,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “Maduro and his cronies have used state-owned PDVSA to control, manipulate, and steal from the Venezuelan people for too long, destroying it in the process. Today’s action will prevent Maduro and other corrupt actors from further enriching themselves at the expense of the long-suffering Venezuelan people. It will also preserve the core pillar of Venezuela’s national assets for the people and a democratically elected government.”

The Washington Post reported that the sanctions will affect Citgo and Valero; Citgo is based in Houston and owned by Venezuela, and Valero is the largest oil refiner in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reported that this will affect $11 billion in exports.

The United States has been vocal about its support for interim President Juan Guaido, who swore himself in on Wednesday after the people of Venezuela urged him to take action against the Maduro regime. The United States has recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s president.

Venezuela is suffering economic collapse due to hyperinflation, and mass protests have been underway across the country since Maduro was inaugurated to his second term on Jan. 10.

In his statement Monday, Pompeo said:

“These new sanctions do not target the innocent people of Venezuela and will not prohibit humanitarian assistance including the provision of medicine and medical devices, which are desperately needed after years of economic destruction under Maduro’s rule. The Department of the Treasury is issuing a series of general licenses to support U.S. companies, interests, and allies.

The United States will continue to take concrete and forceful action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and serve their own interests rather than those of the Venezuelan people.

The United States stands with interim President Juan Guaido, the democratically elected National Assembly, and the people of Venezuela as they peacefully restore constitutional order to their country.”

On Wednesday, Guaido, 35, swore himself in as the temporary president, backed by the widespread support of thousands of Venezuelans. Guaido recently became head of the opposition party, which controls the Venezuelan congress.

Venezuelans had boycotted the last election, declaring Maduro’s re-election as fraudulent, while supporting opposition leader Guaido and urging him to assume the presidency.

The U.S. on Wednesday recognized Guaido as the president of Venezuela, an unprecedented move.

President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon, saying, “The citizens of Venezuela have suffered for too long at the hands of the illegitimate Maduro regime. Today, I have officially recognized the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.”

The controversy has grabbed the attention of Russia, who is an ally of Venezuela and has recently strengthened ties with them.