The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned BANDES national development bank and its subsidiaries in what was described by Washington as an action "in response to the illegal arrest" of opposition leader Juan Guaido's aide by Caracas.
According to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro allegedly "distorted the original purpose of the bank… as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power."
The decision comes just day after US National Security Adviser John Bolton threatened Venezuela with response to the detention of Roberto Marrero, calling his arrest a "big mistake." According to Venezuelan Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, the aide to the self-declared "interim president" Juan Guaido was part of a terrorist cell that planned attacks in the country and was linked with foreign mercenaries.
In addition to this, two rifles were found in possession of Marrero, who was detained in an early-morning raid on Thursday, Caracas announced.
Venezuela has been in a political crisis since 23 January, when Venezuelan National Assembly leader Juan Guaido declared himself to be the country's interim president, with the US, the EU and most Latin American states shortly recognising him the interim leader of the state. At the same time, Russia, China, Mexico, Turkey and other countries continue to recognize Nicolas Maduro as Venezuela’s only legitimate president who came to power after winning the May 2018 elections.
Maduro himself called Guaido a "puppet" of the United States and accused Washington of orchestrating a coup d’etat in Venezuela in order to force a change in government and claim the energy-rich country's resources. In response to the move made by Washington and its allies, Maduro also announced his decision to sever diplomatic ties and close Venezuela’s embassy and consulates in the United States.