U.S. hits 'corrupt' Venezuela oil firm PDVSA with sanctions

Dwayne Harmon
January 30, 2019

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a state-owned oil firm in Venezuela, the latest move of the Trump administration to mount pressure on President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to the opposition.

"I have given specific instructions to the head of PDVSA to launch political and legal action, in USA and worldwide courts, to defend the property and assets of Citgo", PDVSA's US-based subsidiary, Maduro said on state television.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday certified that Guaido has authority to take control of bank accounts that Venezuela's government has in the Federal Reserve Bank of NY or any other U.S. -insured banks. "Be on alert, Venezuela!"

Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido speaks during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, January 25, 2019.

Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress, proclaimed himself interim president last week in opposition to socialist President Nicolas Maduro, and his legitimacy has been backed by the USA and two dozen other nations.

The US, Canada, Australia and most of the OAS members have recognized Guaido as president, while Russia, China, Cuba and Bolivia have gone on the record in support of Maduro.

Mnuchin says USA consumers should not expect to see higher prices at gas stations if the sanctions are not called off. It is the last of eight similar ships that the former Venezuelan leader bought from Spain in 2005 for $1.4 billion.

The disputed president Nicolás Maduro is still clinging on to power and has broken diplomatic ties with the USA government.

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Opposition leaders have called for anti-government demonstrations this week.

Until now, President Donald Trump had held off on targeting Venezuela's vital oil sector.

The Russian company also has five joint upstream projects with PDVSA in Venezuela.

"While the general belief is that Canadian heavy barrels should benefit with the demise of Venezuela, the notional degree of market share up for grabs for Canada is not as large as for competing countries", RBC says in a report.

International Brent crude oil futures rose over 2 percent on Tuesday in reaction. It accounted for 37% of Valero's total imports in 2018 and 17.6% of Chevron's, according to Panjiva data.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin shares the view of the Venezuelan government that the sanctions are "illegal" and sees them as a tool of unfair competition on part of the United States.

The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for Venezuela to level 4 and warned that Americans have been arbitrarily detained "for long periods" in the politically unstable nation.

"Experience has proven that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems", foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular media briefing on Tuesday.

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