Trump administration imposes sweeping sanctions on Venezuela

By FABIOLA SANCHEZ

and JOSHUA GOODMAN

Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — The Trump administration slapped sweeping financial sanctions on Venezuela on Friday, dramatically ratcheting up tensions between the two countries and making it harder for embattled President Nicolas Maduro to raise badly needed cash to prevent a debt default.

The sanctions, which Trump signed by executive order, prohibit American financial institutions from providing new money to the government or the state oil company, PDVSA. They also restrict the Venezuelan oil giant’s U.S. subsidiary, Citgo, from sending dividends back to Venezuela and ban trading in two bonds the government recently issued to circumvent its increasing isolation from Western financial markets.

“Maduro may no longer take advantage of the American financial system to facilitate the wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the White House. “These measures will undermine Maduro’s ability to pay off political cronies, and regime supporters, and increase pressure on the regime to abandon it’s disastrous path.”

The financial sanctions drew quick rebuke from Venezuela’s government, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza calling them the worst aggression against the country in two centuries.

“What do they want — they want to starve the Venezuelan people?” Arreaza told reporters at the United Nations after meeting with Secretary General Antonio Guterres.