USA hits 'corrupt' Venezuela oil firm PDVSA with sanctions
30 January, 2019, 02:56 | Author: Kevin Carter
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido is pressing forward with efforts to form a transitional government by naming a new slate of diplomats.
The UN human rights office said security forces in Venezuela had detained almost 700 people in one day last week amid anti-government protests - the highest such tally in a single day in the country in at least 20 years.
Venezuela's chief prosecutor is seeking to ban opposition leader Juan Guaido from leaving the country as part of a criminal probe into his anti-government activities.
White House national security adviser John Bolton said on Monday the new measures would cost Maduro $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year and block him from accessing PDVSA assets worth $7 billion.
The US, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay have officially acknowledged Guaido as the legitimate interim head of Venezuela, while Russia, Iran, Turkey and China, among many other countries, back Maduro.
Russian Federation and China, who are among the countries supporting Maduro's administration and have bankrolled his government, strongly criticized the USA sanctions on Monday.
The Kremlin has also warned against negative repercussions should third countries intervene in Venezuela's affairs.
Maduro's inauguration sparked protests throughout Venezuela. Overall, 850 people were detained between Monday and Saturday, including 77 children.
Guaido said on Tuesday he did not underestimate the threat of imprisonment but did not believe it was "anything new".
"Maduro has created an economic, political and humanitarian crisis".
Maduro says the United States is promoting a coup against him and promised to stay in office, backed by Russian Federation and China, which have bankrolled his government and fought off efforts to have his government disavowed by the United Nations.
Maduro appeared on a television broadcast from a military base on Tuesday, praising the soldiers' loyalty. However, the Supreme Court is loyal to Maduro and is expected to quickly open the investigation.
Specialists have urged Maduro to abandon the policy of controlling exchange rates in order to combat the country's economic crisis and inflation, which the International Monetary Fund says will reach 10 million percent this year.
Until now, President Donald Trump had held off on targeting Venezuela's vital oil sector.
PDVSA responded to the sanctions by ordering customers with tankers waiting to load crude destined for the United States to prepay, according to three sources with knowledge of the decision. The company would not allow the opposition to take control of its USA refinery unit Citgo, Venezuela's key foreign asset, he said.
Since the 1920s, when American prospectors first discovered vast amounts of oil on the shore of Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo, the United States has been the main destination of the country's sole significant export.
"We can't allow Venezuelan oil to be stolen", he said in a speech on state television. The sanctions will include a freeze on any assets the firm may have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with it.
Valero and Citgo are among the largest importers of Venezuelan crude.
Venezuela is very reliant on the U.S. for its oil revenue.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said historical experience showed foreign interference "only makes situations more complicated".
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