Trump US Venezuela sanctions, White House to intensify pressure.
The Treasury Department on Friday slapped additional sanctions on Venezuela, this time on the banking sector, the latest effort from the White House to intensify pressure on dictator Nicolás Maduro.
The sanctions target Venezuela’s state-owned and controlled bank Banco de Desarrollo Economico y Social de Venezuela, or BANDES, and four related financial institutions.
“The willingness of Maduro’s inner-circle to exploit Venezuela’s institutions knows no bounds. Regime insiders have transformed BANDES and its subsidiaries into vehicles to move funds abroad in an attempt to prop up Maduro,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement Friday. “Maduro and his enablers have distorted the original purpose of the bank, which was founded to help the economic and social well-being of the Venezuelan people, as part of a desperate attempt to hold onto power.”
The sanctions are the latest volley in a broad campaign led by the White House to pressure the socialist country’s autocrat to step down, after President Donald Trump recognized National Assembly President Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful “interim president” in January.
The sanctions come a day after Venezuelan police detained Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, a move that earned sharp criticism and threat of a forceful response from the United States.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday tweeted a condemnation of the act and promised to “hold accountable those involved.” National security advisor John Bolton echoed Pompeo, tweeting that “Maduro has made another big mistake.”
“The regime’s continued use of kidnapping, torture and murder of Venezuelan citizens will not be tolerated by the U.S. or the international coalition that is united behind President Guaidó, ” Mnuchin said in Friday’s statement. “Roberto Marrero and other political prisoners must be released immediately.”
The Trump administration has deployed increasingly tough economic sanctions to lean on Maduro in place of military intervention, though officials have repeatedly said such tactics have not been ruled out.
The collapse of Venezuela’s economy in recent years created a humanitarian catastrophe, and more than 3 million people have fled, leaving behind many who struggle to find food and medicine. Maduro denies there is a crisis and has blocked attempts to deliver aid.
The socialist nation erupted into violence in recent weeks as Maduro’s regime has shut down its borders with Brazil and Colombia and denied shipments of humanitarian assistance.
Earlier in the year, the United States dealt a major economic blow to Maduro by placing sanctions on the country’s state-run oil company. The White House also slapped sanctions on Maduro-supporting Venezuelan security forces and revoked the visas of top officials and the relatives of those tied to the autocrat’s regime.