Trump administration sanctions Venezuela’s state-owned oil company

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday announced sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, as ongoing political turmoil continues to grip the poverty-stricken nation.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday that the sanctions would be implemented to “help prevent the further diversion of Venezuela’s assets by President [Nicolás] Maduro” and to hold accountable “those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline.”

Mnuchin described PDVSA, which owns U.S. oil refiner and petroleum product retailer Citgo, as a vehicle for embezzlement and corruption.

In the U.S., Citgo’s three Gulf Coast refineries have the capacity to process about 760,000 barrels of oil a day. The Lake Charles facility in Louisiana is PDVSA’s largest refinery outside of Venezuela. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world.

In order to receive sanctions relief, the country would have to transfer control to the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government.

The administration estimated the sanctions could result in $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year.

Citgo, which is owned by PDVSA, will be permitted to continue operating in the U.S. so long as money goes into a blocked account that Maduro cannot access.

In the year ending in October, the U.S. imported an average of 505,300 barrels per day from Venezuela. Imports from the country accounted for 6.4 percent of the U.S. total during that period.

Trump has promised to use the “full weight” of U.S. power to press for the restoration of democracy in the country.

President Trump announced U.S. support for opposition-leader Juan Guaidó, who was sworn in as interim president last week. Guaidó is calling for more protests this week to demand Maduro’s abdication of power.

Guaidó has invoked protocol that can be legally taken under the country’s constitution whereby the head of the assembly can become national leader if the office of the president is wrongfully taken. He has promised to hold the office until free and fair elections can be carried out.

In response, Maduro said he was breaking diplomatic relations with the U.S. and gave personnel 72 hours to leave the country. The military has sided with Maduro.

The Trump administration on Monday called on the military to accept a peaceful transition of power.


The Trump administration on Monday called on the military to accept a peaceful transition of power.

Countries around the globe have called Maduro an illegitimate dictator. Maduro began his second term as president earlier this month following controversial and contested elections over the summer.