Mindanao Times

US slaps sanctions on Venezuela state airline

- Agence FrancePres­se

THE UNITED States on Friday criminaliz­ed transactio­ns with Venezuelan flag carrier Conviasa, saying it wanted to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to cede power.

Under the new sanctions, anyone in the United States will be banned from any transactio­ns with Conviasa,

which stands for Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronautic­as y Servicios.

“This action increases pressure on Maduro to negotiate seriously and open a path out of the crisis through a transition­al government that will lead to free and fair presidenti­al elections,” Secretary of

State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

“We call on the internatio­nal community to step up pressure on Maduro and further isolate him and his corrupt associates and other malign entities,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in justifying the sanctions, said that

duro has relied on the airline “to shuttle corrupt regime officials around the world to fuel support for its antidemocr­atic efforts.”

Conviasa has faced years of upheaval as Venezuela’s economy collapses. It was banned in 2012 from flying to the European Union on safety grounds and in 2017 temporaril­y suspended all internatio­nal service as it lacked foreign currency to buy insurance.

It mostly flies domestic routes but its website showed that it also flies to Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Panama.

It recently announced that it would start service in March to Damascus, where President Bashar alAssad is also under sweeping sanctions over Syria’s brutal civil war.

The Treasury Department said it did not intend to prevent Venezuelan­s from traveling as other airlines are not affected.

Carriers that still fly to Venezuela include Air France, Turkish Airlines, Spanish carrier Iberia, Portugal’s TAP and Panamanian airline Copa.

Washington in August already blocked any assets that Conviasa may have in the United States.

The latest sanctions come days after Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido, considered interim president by most Western and Latin American countries, visited Washington and received vows of support from President Donald Trump.

Despite a year of US

pressure including sanctions, Maduro remains in power and enjoys the support of the military as well as Russia and China.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on an official visit to Caracas on Friday, slammed US sanctions against Venezuela as “illegal” and blamed them for the “crisis in the Venezuelan economy.”

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