U.S. threatens ‘serious consequences’ if Venezuela arrests ‘president’ Guaido

Anna Jefferson
January 30, 2019

The measures are the latest in an worldwide pressure campaign on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to cede power after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim leader last week.

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a state-owned oil firm in Venezuela, the latest move of the Trump administration to mount pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is pressing forward with efforts to form a transitional government by naming a new slate of diplomats.

Maduro, sworn in earlier this month for a second term after last year's disputed elections, accuses Guaido of staging a US-directed coup against him.

Bolton's warning followed a request by the Maduro government's attorney general for the Supreme Court to bar Guaido from leaving the country and to freeze his assets.

Saab also requested a travel ban which would prevent Guaidó from leaving the country.

In a defiant national broadcast on Monday night, Maduro said he would take legal action to challenge the sanctions and defend Citgo Petroleum Corp, PDVSA's US refining subsidiary, which he accused the United States of trying to steal.

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Guaido, who argues that Maduro usurped the presidency on taking office for a second six-year term on January 10 following a May 2018 election considered fraudulent by the opposition, has said he is prepared to receive $20 million in humanitarian aid pledged by the United States.

Russian Federation and China, who are among the countries supporting Maduro's administration and have bankrolled his government, strongly criticized the US sanctions on Monday.

There's also a prohibition on exporting light oil to Venezuela needed to dilute its heavy crude, further hindering the country's ability to export.

Maduro's inauguration sparked protests throughout Venezuela.

Opposition leaders have called for anti-government demonstrations this week.

"The Maduro crime family has used PDVSA to buy and keep the support of many military leaders", Rubio said in a statement before the announcement was made by the administration.

Maduro appeared on a television broadcast from a military base on Tuesday, praising the soldiers' loyalty.

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The White House's measures to freeze PDVSA's U.S. assets - including proceeds from oil exports - and limit the company's transactions are an attempt to largely cut off Mr Maduro's access to oil revenue, which accounts for most of the country's income in hard currency.

Until now, President Donald Trump had held off on targeting Venezuela's vital oil sector.

PDSVA is the acronym for the state-owned oil company.

The Trump administration had long held off targeting Venezuela's oil sector for fear that it would hurt USA refiners and raise oil prices for Americans.

"Since August 2017, Canada has been working closely as a member of the Lima group, which is comprised of over a dozen Latin American countries and the Caribbean, to address the Venezuelan crisis", Freeland said.

"Applying sanctions [on Venezuela] could meet both geopolitical and economic objectives, though the latter is a balance between improving the prospects for USA crude oil exports globally against the risk of increased fuel costs", Panjiva analysts said.

China has said it opposes unilateral sanctions. Brent crude futures surged 2.9% to $61.7 per barrel Tuesday morning on the news, while West Texas Intermediate futures rose 3.4% to $53.9 per barrel. The kind of crude that Venezuela exports, known as heavy-sour, is now scarce due to voluntary cuts in OPEC and Canadian output and the impact of American sanctions on Iran.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said that the US sanctions against PDVSA amounted to illegal interference in Venezuela's internal affairs, and that Russian Federation would use all the legal mechanisms at its disposal to protect its interests there.

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