U.S. sanc­tions hit eight more Venezue­lans

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - SALEHA MOHSIN AND JOSE EN­RIQUE ARRIOJA In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Josh Lederman of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­panded U.S. sanc­tions against Venezuela by freez­ing as­sets of eight Venezue­lans as it seeks to raise pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro.

A list re­leased by the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment on Wed­nes­day in­cluded Adan Chavez, brother of the late Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez, and Her­mann Es­carra, a con­sti­tu­tional ad­viser to Maduro.

Seven of those sanc­tioned are cur­rent or for­mer Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, the Trea­sury Depart­ment said in a state­ment. The eighth Venezue­lan “par­tic­i­pated in ac­tions or poli­cies that un­der­mine demo­cratic pro­cesses or in­sti­tu­tions in Venezuela,” ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

The ac­tion came as the U.S. sought a co­or­di­nated in­ter­na­tional re­sponse in im­pos­ing penal­ties on the Maduro regime for un­der­min­ing democ­racy in the South Amer­i­can coun­try. The U.S. is press­ing Euro­pean and South Amer­i­can coun­tries — in­clud­ing Venezuela’s neigh­bor Colom­bia — to match the sanc­tions.

At least 11 South Amer­i­can coun­tries as well as Canada met Tues­day in Lima, Peru, to dis­cuss the im­pli­ca­tions of Venezuela’s newly con­vened assem­bly re­spon­si­ble for rewrit­ing the con­sti­tu­tion. Peru­vian Pres­i­dent Pe­dro Pablo Kuczyn­ski has led calls for a re­gional re­sponse to the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing eco­nomic and hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in Venezuela.

The lat­est U.S. sanc­tions stopped short of a more sig­nif­i­cant penalty that has been un­der con­sid­er­a­tion: ban­ning im­ports of Venezue­lan oil, which ac­counts for 95 per­cent of the coun­try’s for­eign-cur­rency earn­ings. Venezuela, a found­ing mem­ber of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the Petroleum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries, has the world’s largest proven re­serves and is South Amer­ica’s largest oil ex­porter. It also is the third-largest source of im­ported oil to the U.S.

The ex­pan­sion of the sanc­tions list comes as Maduro works to con­sol­i­date power and oust po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion took the un­usual step of per­son­ally sanc­tion­ing a head of state when it froze Maduro’s as­sets in the U.S. on July 31 af­ter he pro­ceeded with a vote on a new con­sti­tu­tional assem­bly that was a first step to re­vis­ing the con­sti­tu­tion.

The vote to elect the assem­bly was boy­cotted by the op­po­si­tion, which con­trols the elected Leg­is­la­ture, and was marred by ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud. The assem­bly on Satur­day re­moved the chief pros­e­cu­tor, Luisa Ortega Diaz, a critic of Maduro’s regime, and vowed to rule for a max­i­mum of two years.

“Pres­i­dent Maduro swore in this il­le­git­i­mate con­stituent assem­bly to fur­ther en­trench his dic­ta­tor­ship, and con­tin­ues to tighten his grip on the coun­try,” Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steve Mnuchin said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the new sanc­tions Wed­nes­day.

Pre­vi­ously, the U.S. sanc­tioned 13 peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with Maduro’s gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing Si­mon Zerpa, vice pres­i­dent of fi­nance at Petroleos de Venezuela, the state oil com­pany.

The deep­en­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis and the threat of ad­di­tional sanc­tions has wors­ened Venezuela’s eco­nomic tur­moil. Rep­sol SA pulled all for­eign work­ers from its oil fields in Venezuela, while Chevron Corp. and To­tal SA have re­moved a small num­ber of em­ploy­ees, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with knowl­edge of the com­pa­nies. Nor­way’s Sta­toil ASA has with­drawn its ex­pa­tri­ate staff.

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