The end already looked nigh for the President of Venezuela, as his people suffer through hellish crime, corruption and starvation — but now he has been dealt a potentially crucial Donald Trump hammer blow.
The US President’s administration has, this morning, hit Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm PDVSA with crippling sanctions and urged the country’s military to give up power peacefully.
US national security adviser John Bolton said President Nicolas Maduro could “no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people” and added that PDVSA is one of the entities responsible for the country’s “tragic decline”.
The company “has long been a vehicle for corruption”, the US Treasury says, citing schemes designed to embezzle billions of dollars “for the personal gain of corrupt Venezuelan officials and businessmen”.
PDVSA is a primary source of Venezuela’s income and foreign currency.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters at the White House on Monday the action was meant to intensify pressure on Mr Maduro.
“The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support interim president Juan Guaido, the National Assembly and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy,” Mr Mnuchin said.
Mr Bolton said more than 20 other countries have followed the US decision to no longer recognise Mr Maduro as president.
Mr Bolton says the action is a statement backing the people of Venezuela, who he says “have had enough of oppression and economic hardship”.
The news came as Mr Guaido announced he had ordered congress to begin the process of naming new boards of directors to PDVSA and US refining subsidiary Citgo.
The assembly will also gradually take control of Venezuelan assets abroad and take measures to guarantee transparency in the use of state resources, Mr Guaido said in a statement.
The goal is to prevent Mr Maduro and his entourage continuing “to steal the money of Venezuelans,” Mr Guaido said.
WHAT HAPPENED TO VENEZUELA?
A decade ago, Venezuela was best known for its Caribbean coast, boasting the highest waterfall in the world and sitting on more oil reserves than any other country.
But Venezuela’s oil has always made it very attractive to the rest of the world and leaves the country fighting off constant foreign interference.
Since 2013, when Mr Maduro was elected as President of Venezuela, the country has been in the grips of corruption, deep recession and hyperinflation, triggering shortages of food, medicine and any basic necessity the people desire.
While Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, a fall in prices coupled with corruption and mismanagement under two decades of socialist rule have left the country in chaos.
Most migrants say they are fleeing Venezuela’s imploding economy.
Mr Maduro regularly dismisses the migration figures as “fake news” created to justify foreign intervention in Venezuela’s affairs.
He also urged his country’s people to “stop cleaning toilets abroad” and return home.
Mr Maduro was re-elected in May in a vote that dozens of foreign governments described as rigged.
But he insists the election was free and fair and says the situation was the result of an “economic war” led by the opposition and business leaders who are arbitrarily raising prices.
Venezuelans were previously able to enter Colombia and Ecuador using only paper ID cards. About half of those who have made the journey so far don’t have passports.
But obtaining a passport in Venezuela is close to impossible with the country struggling with shortages of paper and ink.