Venezuela embargo imposed on Nicolas Maduro’s government
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is ramping up rhetorical and economic pressure on Venezuela, imposing a Cuban-like embargo on the South American country that a senior administration official described as a warning shot to Russia and China.
White House officials said it was the first time the U.S. had leveled such sanctions against a country in the Western Hemisphere in three decades.
Days after suggesting he might impose a “blockade” of Venezuela, Trump signed an executive order late Monday that put in place economic sanctions on the socialist country that rival the restrictions placed on countries such as Cuba and North Korea.
Hours later, National Security Adviser John Bolton told an audience in Peru that Russian and Chinese support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “intolerable” and warned those countries to “not double down on a bad bet.”
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The renewed emphasis on Venezuela comes after previous efforts by the administration failed to out Maduro. A showdown between Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido sparked violence and unrest in the country this year and the U.S. and other countries called on Maduro to step down.
White House officials described the latest round of sanctions against the county, which Trump signed late Monday, as the first time in years that the U.S. had imposed an asset freeze in another country in the Western Hemisphere.
“Not since an asset freeze against the Noriega government in Panama in 1988, a trade embargo on Nicaragua in 1985, or the comprehensive asset freeze and trade embargo on Cuba in 1962 have we taken this action,” Bolton said in Peru.
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Trump signed the order late to punish Maduro’s administration for what the White House described as human rights abuses, the “arbitrary arrest and detention” of citizens and the curtailment of the press.
“I have determined that it is necessary to block the property of the Government of Venezuela in light of the continued usurpation of power by the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro regime,” Trump said in the executive order.
The Trump administration has previously imposed sanctions on dozens of Venezuelan nationals and businesses.
In the latest order, Trump protested what he called Maduro’s “ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaido of Venezuela and the democratically-elected Venezuelan National Assembly.”
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Trump’s order freezes all Venezuelan property in the U.S. and the export of most goods. It would also allow the U.S. “to identify, target, and, impose sanctions on any persons who continue to provide support” to Maduro, Bolton said.
Trump said last week that he was considering a blockade of Venezuela, a country that has vexed his administration even as the president has sought to use its socialism as a 2020 campaign theme. He did not elaborate or provide details at the time on what he meant by the term.
Asked if he was considering a blockade or a quarantine on Venezuela, the president replied, “Yes, I am.”