President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday January 30th called US sanctions imposed on Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA this week illegal, Reuters reported, citing the Russian RIA news agency. Maduro asserted that Caracas is making every effort to stabilise the Venezuelan economy.
The Trump administration imposed sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company on Monday January 28th, seeking to cripple the government of embattled President Nicolás Maduro by cutting off its main source of cash. US National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held a press conference on the 28th to announce that Washington had blocked all assets under its jurisdiction of Venezuela's state-run oil company, PDVSA, and banned deals with the firm.
However, White House national security adviser John Bolton raised questions about the United States' intentions in Venezuela after he appeared at a briefing with a notepad containing the words "5,000 troops to Colombia," Venezuela’s neighbour.
It was not immediately clear what Bolton's notes meant and whether President Trump's administration was seriously considering sending US troops to Colombia. It was also not clear if disclosure of the notes was intentional and there was no indication that such a military option would be used any time soon.Several White House sources refused to comment on the Bolton note and what was behind it. A White House spokesman said to 7Dnews "As the President has said, all options are on the table." the Pentagon said the Defence Department had as yet received no troop-movement orders. Experts think that the Bolton notes could have been deliberately displayed to the media as an oblique threat to Maduro.
At the same time, the State Department announced on Tuesday January 29th that Washington has certified the authority of Venezuelan opposition figure, Juan Guaido, to control some assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US-insured banks. "This certification will help Venezuela's legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people", State Department spokesperson Roberto Palladino said in a statement.
All these moves mark the first punitive steps by the United States to force Mr Maduro to give up power since the opposition leader, Juan Guaidó, declared himself interim president last week after years of corruption accusations in Venezuela at the expense of its people. At his briefing on January 28th, White House national security adviser John Bolton said, “Any attempt to harm remaining US diplomats in Venezuela, or violence against the newly recognised president, Juan Guaidó, will be met with a significant response.” "We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," Bolton added.
When there are "rightful leaders" in Venezuela, Mnuchin said, the blocked money "will be available to Guaidó." He added, “The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline.”
Mnuchin also said the Trump administration would pursue all diplomatic and economic avenues to support Guaidó and the National Assembly, “and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy.”
Such a blow to the Venezuela government's revenue stream could further deteriorate an already dramatic scarcity of food and medicines. Crippling hyperinflation has broken the socialist nation, fuelling widespread hunger, spreading disease and prompting a historic wave of Venezuelan migrants.
In Venezuela, the government is responsible for a large percentage of imports, meaning shortages of food and medicine could deepen as the government loses access to cash from oil sales to the United States.