U.S. readies Venezuela sanctions; Maduro defies threat

The Trump administration is preparing sanctions against several senior Venezuelan government figures, U.S. officials said on Tuesday, to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to abort plans for a controversial congress foes say would cement dictatorship.

The punitive measures could come against Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and Socialist Party No. 2 Diosdado Cabello for alleged human rights violations, the U.S. officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

Their comments followed President Donald Trump's vow on Monday to take "strong and swift economic actions" if Maduro went ahead with the new body that would have power to rewrite Venezuela's constitution and supersede all institutions. 

"All options are on the table," including possible measures against Venezuela's vital oil sector such as banning its crude imports to the United States, a senior Trump administration official told reporters on a conference call. 

Washington is seeking to head off the July 30 vote for a Constituent Assembly that it sees as Maduro's effort to create a "full dictatorship," the administration official said. 

Individual sanctions could come within days or else be delayed until after the July 30 vote, but no final decisions have been made and such actions could still be put on hold, one U.S. official told Reuters. 

The heightened U.S. rhetoric against the Venezuela government infuriated Maduro. "No one gives Venezuela orders, no foreign government," Maduro told a specially convened state security council to analyze the U.S. threats. "Donald Trump is not the boss of Venezuela."

 

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