US to Impose ‘Significant’ Sanctions on Venezuela in Coming Days - Abrams

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The United States will impose additional major sanctions on Venezuela in the coming days, US Special Representative Elliot Abrams said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

"You'll see in the coming days some very significant additional sanctions", Abrams told reporters at the State Department. Abrams explained Washington will impose more sanctions on financial institutions supporting the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would recall all diplomats remaining in Venezuela later this week. Washington had recalled non-essential diplomats and embassy personnel from Venezuela over security reasons on 24 January.

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Abrams told reporters on Tuesday that Washington is in discussions with other countries about choosing "a protecting power" for its embassy in Caracas after the decision to withdraw all US diplomats from Venezuela amid the ongoing political crisis.

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"Normally, we would get a protecting power and that is, I think, what we will do here. We are in discussions now about that", Abrams said during a press briefing.

Venezuela has been facing a deep political crisis in recent weeks. On 5 January, lawmaker Juan Guaido was elected head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, which all other government branches have been refusing to recognize since 2016.

The crisis worsened when Guaido declared himself interim president on 23 January. The United States and 54 countries soon recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s president.

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Incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, whose new term began on 10 January, said Guaido is a puppet of the United States and accused Washington of attempting to organize a coup d’etat in Venezuela.

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Russia, China, Turkey, Bolivia, Iran, Turkey and several other countries have said they recognize the constitutionally elected Maduro as the Venezuela’s only legitimate president.

The United States has imposed numerous rounds of sanctions against Venezuela in response to the political developments in the country. In January, Washington blocked $7 billion in assets belonging to Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA. Maduro said the US sanctions were tantamount to an illegal seizure of the country's sovereign assets.

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Abrams told reporters on Tuesday that Washington would continue encouraging China to halt the support for Maduro.

"We will continue to make efforts to bring China aboard, we have told at various places, we have told the Chinese that we think if their concern is, in essence, getting their money back, they will never get it back from the bankrupt Maduro regime and from a basically destroyed Venezuelan economy… the only way they will get it back is when Venezuela returns to prosperity which they will not do with Nicolas Maduro", Abrams said.

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Abrams also warned that the United States will also continue to examine Turkey’s support for the Maduro government and its purchase of gold from Caracas, adding that Washington does not exclude the possibility of imposing sanctions on Ankara.

"Turkey’s support for the Maduro regime obviously is completely contrary to the US policy and very unhelpful, and we will continue to take a look at the ways in which that support takes place and in the context of sanctions by Treasury," Abrams said.

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