Trump hits country with sanctions in final parting shot
The Trump administration issued a parting shot to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday, announcing a sweeping round of stiff financial sanctions that target a network accused of moving oil on behalf of the president’s alleged frontman.
The US Treasury Department hit three individuals, 14 business entities and six ships with financial measures. They’re accused of assisting the Venezuelan oil firm PDVSA, under Maduro’s control, to outmanoeuvre earlier US sanctions designed to stop the president from profiting from crude sales.
Trump, who leaves the White House today, has led an international coalition over the last two years by exerting increasing pressure on Maduro to end what US officials call his illegitimate hold on power.
The White House recognises Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the nation’s legitimate leader, blaming Maduro for Venezuela’s economic and political ruin.
“The United States remains committed to targeting those enabling the Maduro regime’s abuse of Venezuela’s natural resources,” US Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.
The fresh sanctions target people and businesses linked with Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman who US officials say is a close associate of Maduro. Saab is jailed in the African nation of Cape Verde while fighting extradition to the US to face corruption charges.
The primary figures targeted by the sanctions are Alessandro Bazzoni, Francisco Javier D’Agostino Casado, Philipp Paul Vartan Apikian, Elemento Ltd, and Swissoil Trading SA.
Bazzoni, a London-based Italian commodities trader, declined a request by The Associated Press to comment.
Venezuelan officials, who didn’t immediately comment on the sanctions, often blame the US for leading an “economic war” with the end goal of installing Guaidó as the head of a “puppet” government to steal Venezuela’s vast oil reserves.
Sanctions by the US Treasury’s Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control block any assets that targeted individuals and businesses have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from conducting financial transactions with them.
The US Department of Commerce also announced measures on Tuesday to block US technology from being used by military intelligence in nations including China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela.