Washington hits Venezuela with sanctions as 14 nations limit diplomatic ties
On Monday, President Donald Trump signed an order limiting Venezuela’s ability to liquidate assets “at fire sale prices,” the Associated Press reported.
The move might be aimed at keeping Venezuela from selling off its stake in the CITGO oil company, which operates in the United States.
Closer to Caracas, the 14 nations that are part of the “Lima Group” said they would be limiting diplomatic ties with Venezuela and would study blocking all future loans to the nation.
The moves come less than 24 hours after Maduro won a new term in a controversial vote that his rivals and critics say was marred by fraud.
In a statement, the Lima Group, said it did not recognize the “legitimacy” of Sunday’s vote and said its members had agreed to “reduce the level of diplomatic relations with Venezuela” and recall their ambassadors for consultation.
The Lima Group is comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Saint Lucia. And the bloc has been a vocal opponent of what it sees as growing authoritarianism in Venezuela.
But the Lima Group went further, saying it would take steps so that national and international banks would not offer loans to Venezuela that did not have prior approval from the opposition-held National Assembly.
That could be a serious blow for the cash-strapped nation that needs external funding to import food and medicine.
Maduro and his allies have sidelined the National Assembly, which was elected in 2015, and have allowed a new super-body, the National Constituent Assembly, to usurp most of its functions.
The Lima Group said it would also “intensify and broaden” the exchange of financial information to identify Venezuelan companies and individuals “who could be involved in acts of corruption, money laundering and other illicit activity.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL., applauded the new U.S.sanctions and called on Venezuela’s leaders to remove Maduro.
“Nicolás Maduro told his supporters that pulling off a fake election would be a reset that would result in less sanctions and less isolation,” he said in a statement. “Instead, he faces more sanctions and is more isolated than ever. Maduro’s days in power are numbered.”
The Lima Group group said it will hold a regional meeting to create a strategy to deal with more than 1 million Venezuelans who have left the nation in recent years amid the economic collapse.
Electoral authorities on Sunday said Maduro had won 68 percent of the vote versus the 21 percent garnered by Henri Falcón, the former governor of Lara State, and 11 percent won by Javier Bertucci, an evangelical pastor.
The opposition had called for a boycott. Abstention was at its highest levels in 20 years, according to government figures.
Venezuela is expected to see a wave of new sanctions in coming weeks as a result of Sunday’s vote.