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    Political Crisis in Venezuela (579)

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States announced Monday that it was imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA as part of an effort to transfer power away from President Nicolas Maduro to country's opposition leader Juan Guaido.

    The move comes a week after the head of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself Venezuela's interim president. The Trump administration swiftly recognized Guaido while calling on Maduro to step down.

    The US government appeared to confirm all of Maduro’s suspicions in one fell swoop during a star-studded joint press briefing at the White House featuring three members of US President Donald Trump's cabinet: US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Chief Economic Policy Adviser Larry Kudlow.

    In particular, the United States has imposed sanctions against Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Monday during a press briefing at the White House.

    READ MORE: Trump Urges Maduro to Release 'Political Prisoners' Amid New Sanctions

    "We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies, and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," Bolton said Monday.

    The Trump administration also said Monday it would freeze $7 billion worth of PDVSA's assets in US jurisdictions.

    Moreover, according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, any purchases of Venezuelan oil by US companies will be transferred into the blocked accounts.

    "I expect very modest impacts on the US refineries. We've been working with them closely on these issues", Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Monday.

    READ MORE: Yankee Go Home – Get Your Blood-Soaked Hands Out Of Venezuela

    "We have also issued general licenses to ensure that certain European and Caribbean countries can make an orderly transition", Mnuchin said. "We continue to call on all of our allies and partners to join the United States in recognizing interim President Guiado and blocking Maduro from being able to access PDVSA funds."

    "We will use all diplomatic and economic tools to support Guaido", Mnuchin stressed at a White House press briefing.

    However, Steven Mnuchin also said during a press briefing that Washington could consider sanctions relief for PDVSA if the country's President Nickolas Maduro agrees to transfer power to the opposition leader Juan Guaido.

    READ MORE: Attempted Coup Against Maduro Not US’ First in 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 who is committed to taking concrete and meaningful actions to combat corruption". Mnuchin said

    During the press briefing on Monday, Bolton also said in a separate statement that he believes that the Venezuelan military is looking for ways to support Guaido.

    "We also today call on Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power", Bolton said. "To a certain extent, this has already begun. We have seen Venezuelan officials and military personnel heeding this call. The Venezuelan defense attache here in Washington recognized President [Jose] Guiado a few days ago, and just within the past hours the first consular of Venezuela's Consulate in Miami Scarlet Salazar has also declared for interim President Guiado. I call on responsible nations to recognize interim President Guaido immediately".

    Meanwhile, Guaido said in a statement on Monday that he had ordered Venezuela's National Assembly to begin the process of naming new boards of directors to PDVSA and its US refining subsidiary Citgo Petroleum.

    "I ordered to transfer the accounts of the republic under the control of the Venezuelan state and its legitimate authorities, in order to avoid the continuation of robbery and allocate funds to solve the problems of the Venezuelans", Guaido said in a statement published on Twitter.

    READ MORE: Canada to Host Lima Group in Ottawa Next Week to Discuss Venezuela

    PDVSA is OPEC nation Venezuela's largest source of revenue, and Citgo is Venezuela's most important foreign asset, according to Reuters.

    US officials said Monday the sanctions on PDVSA were intended to prevent Maduro's government from siphoning off funds from the oil company.

    Last week, a source in the country's energy sector familiar with the matter told Sputnik that there had been no changes to the Venezuelan oil sector due to the ongoing political crisis in the country, but Petroleum Minister Maj. Gen. Manuel Quevedo could lose his position as chief of PDVSA. As Maduro has recently started his new presidential term, "it is common to refresh the ministers," the source noted.

    Maduro on Monday accused the United States of an attempt to "steal" a subsidiary of Venezuelan state-owned PDVSA oil and gas company, the US-based Citgo energy company, and slammed the new US sanctions against PDVSA as illegal.

    Over the past few days, Venezuela has seen mass anti-government protests. On Wednesday, Guaido declared himself the country's interim president. The United States urged Maduro to step down and let Guaido assume the presidency. Maduro has responded that Washington is attempting to stage a coup d'etat in Venezuela and announced his decision to cut off diplomatic ties with the United States.

    On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured Maduro in a phone conversation of Russia's support for the country's legitimate authorities amid a domestic political crisis in Venezuela provoked from outside.

    READ MORE: UK Working Behind the Scenes to Unite EU Against Venezuela's Maduro – Report

    Political Crisis in Venezuela (579)


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