President Donald Trump signed an executive order today which places new sanctions on the government of Venezuela and the state-owned oil company, Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA).

In a statement to the press, the White House laid the blame for Venezuela’s current economic and political situation squarely at the feet of President Maduro.

The Maduro dictatorship continues to deprive the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppress freedom of speech.  The regime’s decision to create an illegitimate Constituent Assembly—and most recently to have that body usurp the powers of the democratically-elected National Assembly—represents a fundamental break in Venezuela’s legitimate constitutional order.

The new economic sanctions will halt the flow of financial capital in the form of debt, bonds, and dividend payments to the Maduro government. The sanction will affect new as well as some existing bonds.

The sanctions allow for certain exceptions in order to “mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people.” One exception is for “transactions only involving Citgo,” a subsidiary of PDVSA based in the US which owns a significant amount of infrastructure related to the oil industry in the US.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on to clarify that the United States’ new sanctions were targeted such that ordinary Venezuelans would not face additional hardships as a result.

These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance.

Tensions between Venezuela and the United States have been mounting for months as President Nicolás Maduro has turned Venezuela into an authoritarian state. In an effort to usurp the opposition-led National Assembly, Maduro called for the creation of a National Constituent Assembly. Massive protests rocked Venezuela in the lead up to the July 30 elections.

In response to the creation of the National Constituent Assembly, the United States Treasury Department placed sanctions directly on President Nicolás Maduro. According to a press release, “all assets of Nicolas Maduro subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with him.”

Since it was elected, the Constituent Assembly stripped the National Assembly of its legislative authority and permitted President Maduro to rule by decree.

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