Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaidó Controls U.S. Bank Accounts, State Dept. Says
On Monday, the United States put into effect what is essentially an embargo on oil from the main Venezuelan state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, or Pdvsa. The sanctions would prevent most American companies from doing business with Pdvsa. Any money going to Pdvsa — including from its United States subsidiary, Citgo — would be put into accounts that could be accessed by what the Trump administration deems to be the legitimate Venezuelan government. For now, that is Mr. Guaidó and the National Assembly, where the 35-year-old political activist and industrial engineer serves as leader.
The oil sanctions amount to the first punitive action taken by the United States against Mr. Maduro since the power struggle in Caracas erupted last week, and it is intended to starve the government of Mr. Maduro of cash and foreign currency. Oil production in Venezuela has already plummeted because of mismanagement and poor policies, and the country’s economy is in shambles. Extraction at oil fields still takes place, though, and until now the country exported much of its crude oil to the United States to be refined and then sold.
Venezuela also uses its oil to pay off debt held by China and Russia, and it does not get cash in return for those exports. Russia has denounced United States policy on Venezuela, while China has expressed concern but been more circumspect.
American officials estimated the financial penalties were expected to block $7 billion in assets and result in $11 billion in export losses over the next year for Venezuela’s government.
The United States imports as much as a half-million barrels of oil from Venezuela, which is about 3 percent of American demand. The United States also exports roughly 100,000 barrels of light oil to Venezuela daily. That is used for blending so Venezuela’s heavy oil can be transported through pipelines to refineries and export terminals.
Analysts said the sanctions did not appear intended to cripple Pdvsa, which American officials presumably would want to be operational under a Guaidó-led government. For example, the American oil company Chevron and several large American oil services firms, including Halliburton, can still operate in Venezuela under the sanctions.
In an interview with The New York Times on Friday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a main adviser to the Trump administration on Venezuela policy, said the United States could impose an oil embargo and also hinted at other muscular policy tools it might use against Mr. Maduro.
Mr. Trump has said all options are on the table when it comes to dealing with Mr. Maduro, and on Monday John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, did not rule out military action by the United States when questioned by reporters. He appeared at a White House news conference clutching a yellow notepad that had a cryptic phrase scrawled on the top sheet: “5,000 troops to Colombia.”