Washington has certified the authority of Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido to control some assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks, the State Department announced on Tuesday.
"On 25 January, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo certified the authority of Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaido to receive and control certain property in accounts of the Government of Venezuela or Central Bank of Venezuela held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US insured banks, in accordance with Section 25B of the Federal Reserve Act. […] This certification will help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people", State Department spokesman Roberto Palladino said in a statement.
On Monday, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held a press conference to announce that the US had blocked all assets of Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA under its jurisdiction and banned deals with the firm.
Mnuchin, however, stressed that US companies would be allowed to go on purchasing Venezuelan oil, but the payments must be held in an account that cannot be accessed by the government of Nicolas Maduro.
"If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we'll continue to take it. Otherwise we will not be buying it".
The legitimately elected Maduro has dismissed the sanctions as illegal, while PDVSA President and Oil Minister Manuel Quevedo slammed the restrictions as "a robbery" that is being accomplished with the help of the "treacherous action of the Venezuelan opposition".
Washington has been calling on the international community to follow suit, and urging Maduro to step aside in favour of a "legitimate leader reflecting the will of the Venezuelan people". Maduro, in turn, has accused Guaido of being a "puppet" and blasted the United States for orchestrating a coup.
Guaido has been recognised as Venezuela's interim president by the US, Canada, Israel, Georgia, Albania and a handful of Latin American countries, including Colombia, Chile, Peru, Brazil, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay, Honduras, Argentina, etc. A number of European countries have signalled their intention to follow suit.
On the other hand, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Bolivia, El Salvador, Cuba, and Nicaragua are strongly supporting Maduro as the only legitimate head of state.