The Trump administration on Friday slapped tough new economic sanctions on Venezuela aimed at slowing the South American dictatorship’s steady slide into totalitarianism.
President Trump signed an executive order that bans US companies and individuals from dealing in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company.
It also prohibits dealings in some existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela, headed by President Nicholas 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,” spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
“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.”
In a transparent attempt at self-preservation, the Maduro dictatorship rewards and enriches corrupt officials in the government’s security apparatus by burdening future generations of Venezuelans with massively expensive debts, the White House said.
“We’re seeing the tragedy of tyranny play out before our eyes,” Vice President Mike Pence said after touring South America.
The Treasury Department will still issue general licenses that allow for transactions that would otherwise be prohibited by the executive order. These include provisions allowing for a 30-day wind-down period; financing for most commercial trade, including the export and import of petroleum; transactions only involving Citgo; dealings in select existing Venezuelan debts; and the financing for humanitarian goods to Venezuela, the statement said.
The moves are an effort to deprive Maduro and his cronies the sources of financing that help prop up the authoritarian government.
The administration also called on his government to restore representative democracy, free political prisoners and end repression.
“We continue to stand with the people of Venezuela during these trying times,” Sanders said.