23:25 GMT01 March 2021
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    The US government has maintained economic sanctions against Venezuela for several years, but significantly increased them in January 2019 when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro began his second term, claiming his victory was illegitimate and recognizing Juan Guaido as the country's self-proclaimed interim president.

    On Tuesday, the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control lowered certain restrictions regarding transactions "ordinarily incident and necessary to operations or use of ports and airports in Venezuela."

    The order modifies the terms of two executive orders issued by former US President Donald Trump that targeted assets held by the Venezuelan government, President Nicolas Maduro, or anyone affiliated with the government or the president.

    "Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this general license, all transactions and activities involving the Government of Venezuela prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) 13884 of August 5, 2019, as incorporated into the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 591 (the VSR), that are ordinarily incident and necessary to operations or use of ports and airports in Venezuela are authorized," the order signed by Bradley Smith, the Acting Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said.

    ​An executive order on August 5, 2019, by then-US President Donald Trump imposed an effective blockade on Venezuela, barring nearly all trade with the country without a specific license. However, by 2019, US sanctions had already been revealed to be responsible for killing tens of thousands of Venezuelans by frustrating the country's ability to import medicine and other treatments.

    Since January 2019, Washington has recognized Guaido, then the head of Venezuela's disempowered National Assembly, as the country's interim president after he unexpectedly declared himself so. The announcement heralded the beginning of a hybrid war aiming to force Maduro from power as economic sanctions created a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, which US leaders expected would cause the population to revolt against Maduro and back Guaido. However, that hasn't happened, and subsequent efforts, including an American mercenary hit squad hired by Guaido to capture or kill Maduro, have failed.

    After US President Joe Biden took office on January 20, his administration quickly recognized Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate leader, even though Guaido is no longer even a member of Venezuela's National Assembly, on which Guaido had based his previous claim to power, and even though the head of Venezuela's opposition, Henrique Capriles, has asked Biden to drop his recognition. Several dozen nations had previously recognized Guaido's claim, although last week, the European Union seemingly reversed its previous position, saying Guaido was merely an opposition leader.


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