United States slaps new sanctions on Venezuela

Tarek William Saab speaks during a news conference in Caracas Venezuela

Tarek William Saab speaks during a news conference in Caracas Venezuela

The White House today announced potentially hard-hitting financial sanctions against the Venezuelan regime, banning the trade in new bonds issued by the government and its cash-cow state-run oil company PDVSA.

Venezuela's foreign minister is calling new US financial sanctions "the worst aggressions to Venezuela in the last 200 years, maybe".

The White House has yet to comment on the report, but Vice President Mike Pence was due to speak with Venezuelan exiles in Miami later on Wednesday.

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.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed an executive order to impose new financial sanctions on the Venezuelan government, which his administration considers a "dictatorship".

Venezuelan oil minister Nelson Martinez and state oil company president Eulogio Del Pino will switch roles as the South American country's production wanes and money dries up.

A senior Trump administration official, speaking on background, said Maduro was rewarding and enriching corrupt officials within Venezuela's government "by allowing them to ramp up massive debt".

The new economic sanctions are likely to worsen a crisis that has already seen the oil-dependent economy shrink by around 35 percent since 2014 - more than the USA economy did during the Great Depression.

But with Venezuela's streets calmer than they have been for months, and the opposition reeling from its failure to prevent the constitutional assembly from going forward, action from an increasingly concerned global community represents the best chance of reining in Maduro, he added.

The move is a bid to halt financing that fuels President Nicolas Maduro's "dictatorship", the White House said.

But there is a humanitarian crisis in the nation of almost 32 million, thanks largely to the economic devastation brought on by falling oil prices and production.

However, the order protects holders of most existing Venezuelan government and PDVSA bonds, who were relieved the sanctions did not go further. Days after that vote, Maduro's assets were also frozen.

The order also permits the Treasury Department to help finance humanitarian aid for Venezuela citizens.

Earlier this month, Muchacho made headlines when he called USA military intervention in Venezuela "inevitable".

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