24 February 2020
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido (left), Colombia's President Ivan Duque and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Bogota, Colombia, on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido (left), Colombia's President Ivan Duque and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Bogota, Colombia, on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Venezuela hit with new US sanctions after clashes over food aid

The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of its state-owned oil company PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend, Reuters reports.

As Colombia’s foreign minister warned about “credible threats to the life” of Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, the Trump administration also took its pressure campaign to the United Nations Security Council, asking it to discuss the situation in Venezuela, diplomats said.

The US Treasury Department’s sanctions were imposed on four Venezuelan state governors allied with the government of President Nicolas Maduro, blocking any assets they control in the US.

The new sanctions were announced in Bogota as US Vice President Mike Pence and Guaido met with members of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada dedicated to peaceful resolution of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

Pence said the US would stand by Guaido until freedom was restored. He called for all Lima Group nations to immediately freeze PDVSA’s assets and to transfer ownership of Venezuelan assets in their countries from Maduro’s “henchmen” to Guaido’s government-in-waiting.

He also said tougher measures were coming against the OPEC member.

“In the days ahead … the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks,” Pence said. “We will work with all of you to find every last dollar that they stole and work to return it to Venezuela.”

While the day presented a united regional front against Maduro, who is widely accused of coming to power through fraudulent elections, there was no clear sign that the latest measures would succeed in pushing him toward the exit.

At least three people were killed and almost 300 wounded during protests and clashes on Saturday as US-backed aid convoys attempted to enter Venezuela to deliver food and medicine.

In a joint statement at the close of the meeting, the Lima Group said Maduro was a threat to peace and security in the region and called for his immediate exit, a democratic transition and free elections.

Guaido, recognized by most Western nations as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, has urged the bloc to consider “all options” in ousting Maduro.

But the Lima Group said it “reiterates the conviction that the transition to democracy must be conducted by the Venezuelans themselves peacefully and within the framework of the Constitution and international law,” the statement said.

Pence repeated an earlier statement that there would be an amnesty for members of the armed forces who throw their support behind Guaido. He said he hoped Maduro and those supported by his “corruption and his brutality” will leave Venezuela peacefully.

“We make clear to them that we will support the interim president’s call for amnesty, an inclusive government, an inclusive future for members of the armed forces, who have laid down their arms and stand with the Guaido government,” Pence said.

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