Venezuela denounces new US sanctions as ‘threat’ to world

US asset freeze is an attack on private property, could bring additional hardship to Venezuelans, vice president says.

Venezuela''s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the US measures were likely to bring additional hardship to the Venezuelan people [File: Pavel Golovkin/AP]

Venezuela‘s vice president has called the latest US sanctions freezing the assets of President Nicolas Maduro‘s government a “global threat” and an attack on private property.

Delcy Rodriguez said on Tuesday that “the US has to understand once and for all that they aren’t the owners of the world”.

“Every country that has investments in the US should be very worried because this sets a dangerous precedent against private property,” she said.

Rodriguez also said the US measures were likely to bring additional hardship to the Venezuelan people, who were already suffering from the effects of hyperinflation and a deep recession.

The US move, which follows repeated rounds of sanctions against Maduro, includes the authorisation of penalties against “foreign persons” who provide support for his government, the US national security adviser, John Bolton said on Tuesday.

“I want to be clear that this sweeping executive order authorises the US government to identify, target and impose sanctions on any persons who continue to provide support to the illegitimate regime of Nicolas Maduro,” said Bolton, at a meeting in Peru’s capital Lima to discuss Venezuela’s political crisis.

Venezuela’s Guaido ‘to seek US military support’ in bid to topple Maduro (02:39)

“We are taking this step to deny Maduro access to the global financial system and to further isolate him internationally,” he added.

Luis Vicente Leon, an economist with the Caracas-based Datanalisis firm, said the new sanctions “will severely affect the government” financially but was unlikely to “help create conditions for change”.

Instead, he told Al Jazeera, the move would end up affecting crisis-hit Venezuelans even further.

“Maduro has the military and territorial control that he needs, and there are no guarantees that could make us think this will change,” Leon said.

Lima meeting

Delegates from some 60 countries, most of whom support opposition leader Juan Guaido‘s challenge to Maduro’s authority, were meeting in Lima on Tuesday to discuss ways of ending Venezuela’s political crisis.

Venezuela has been mired in a political impasse since January when Guaido proclaimed himself acting president, quickly receiving the support of more than 50 countries, including the US.

Russia, China, Cuba, Turkey, Bolivia and Iran all boycotted Tuesday’s summit.

Bolton called on Russia and China to withdraw their support for Maduro, warning that a Russian military presence in the country could contribute to a “foreign intervention”.

“To both Russia and China, we say that your support to the Maduro regime is intolerable,” Bolton said.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that Washington’s move was illegal and amounted to “economic terror”, the RIA news agency reported.

Also on Tuesday, Cuba‘s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez denounced the new US sanctions, saying they were “another action to harm and rob that nation”. He expressed solidarity with Maduro and urged an end to “the attempt at imperialist domination”.

The sanctions and the Lima meeting came as members of the government and opposition representatives were holding talks in Barbados in an attempt to break the political stalemate. 

“It seems that the negotiations are in a dead point, and this is an attempt by the US to exercise pressure,” Jose Meza, a Venezuelan journalist and analyst, told Al Jazeera. 

“[Under the current circumstances,] it seems that Maduro and his government are just gaining time” he added. 

‘No possibility of losing Citgo’

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s opposition on Tuesday hailed Washington’s announcement, saying the measure would protect Venezuela-owned US-based refiner Citgo from seizure by creditors.

The move comes after Guaido asked the US to issue an executive order protecting Citgo, a subsidiary of state oil company PDVSA which bondholders and other parties are eyeing for possible seizure as a way to receive compensation from Venezuela for unpaid debts.

“Today there is no possibility of losing Citgo,” Guaido told reporters on Tuesday.

Creditors that could lay claim to Citgo include companies suing for compensation for the nationalisation of their assets as well as investors holding bonds issued by PDVSA. One PDVSA bond issue is backed by Citgo shares.

Houston-based Citgo operates refineries in Texas, Louisiana and Illinois that can process up to 749,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It had relied on its parent in Venezuela for heavy crude supply before US sanctions were introduced in January, and now imports mostly from Mexico and Colombia, according to US Energy Department figures.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies