09:11 GMT14 August 2020
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    Washington has issued several rounds of increasingly tough sanctions against Caracas, targeting its banking and oil sectors, as well as foreign companies, individuals and state assets in countries abroad.

    The US Treasury Department has added two companies and two vessels to its list of sanctions against Venezuela, publishing details regarding the designations on its website.

    The restrictions target Monsoon Navigation Corporation, a Marshall Islands-registered company, as well as Serenity Maritime Limited, a Liberia-registered firm. They also target Leon Dias and Ocean Elegance, two oil tankers with Panama flags.

    The US stepped up pressure on Venezuela's struggling oil industry earlier this year, blocking assets from the state-owned PDVSA oil and gas giant in its jurisdiction and banning US crude oil importers from doing business with the company while instructing importers to pay into escrow accounts controlled by self-proclaimed 'interim president' Juan Guaido. The restrictions were just the latest in a broad series of steps taken by the Trump administration since 2017 to put pressure on the Venezuelan government.

    Last week, renowned economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot published a study in which they estimated that over 40,000 Venezuelans had died as a result of US sanctions policy, with restrictions reducing the availability of food and medicine while increasing disease and mortality rates. The report slammed US sanctions as illegal under international law, since they fit the definition of collective punishment.

    Earlier, former UN rapporteur to Venezuela Alfred de Zayas told Sputnik that the US 'economic war' against Venezuela goes back to 1999 and the attempted coup against President Hugo Chavez, and "draconian measures to asphyxiate the Venezuelan economy [which have been in place] since 2015."

    In February, the Latin American Geopolitical Strategic Centre (CELAG) think tank calculated that between 2013 and 2017 alone, the US-led financial blockade against Venezuela cost the Latin American country between $260 billion and $350 billion, or the equivalent of $12,200-$13,400 for every man, woman and child in the country.

    Last week, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar lashed out at President Trump and White House Venezuela policy adviser Elliott Abrams, accusing the administration of being responsible for what she described as the "devastation" in Venezuela. "This particular bullying and the use of sanctions to eventually intervene and make regime change really does not help the people of countries like Venezuela, and it certainly does not help and is not in the interest of the United States," she said.

    The Trump administration has blamed the economic crisis in Venezuela on President Nicolas Maduro and his government's economic policies,with Abrams indicating last month that he expected billions of dollars' worth of investments to flow into Venezuela after Maduro's removal.

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