Published: Tue, January 29, 2019
Markets | By Erika Turner

U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA

U.S. imposes sanctions on Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA

Washington also accepted exiled opposition leader Carlos Vecchio as Venezuela's new charge d'affaires to the United States after he was tapped by Guaido.

Australia has joined the United States in backing Juan Guaido as the interim president of Venezuela. "We're going to survive this coup attempt", the Venezuelan president said. The Venezuelan military remains in support of President Nicolás Maduro, though the opposition has offered amnesty in a bid to encourage defection. Guaido so far hasn't been able to sway the armed forces to his side but he's tapped deep public discontent with an economy beset by hyperinflation spiraling at an annual rate of about 225,000 per cent and vast shortages of food and medicine.

"Any violence and intimidation against USA diplomatic personnel, Venezuela's democratic leader, Juan Guiado, or the National Assembly itself would represent a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response", Bolton tweeted Sunday.

Carlos Luna, a professor of global relations at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, said Maduro's decision to allow interest sections represents a "loss in power". Its proceeds must instead be held in blocked USA accounts. However, U.S. refiners have also upped their gasoline output levels as they increase distillate fuel production as well, as it fetches higher margins. The sanctions will include a freeze on any assets the firm may have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with it.

The United States stopped short, however, of imposing a ban on imports of Venezuelan oil, a move that USA oil refiners had opposed.

The administration is using "a scalpel, rather than a meat ax", he said in an email.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a vocal critic of Maduro who has called for such sanctions, welcomed the move even before it was announced.

Guaido has called for fresh protests in an effort to turn the military against Maduro and back a European ultimatum demanding new elections.

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Moreover, according to the US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, any purchases of Venezuelan oil by the US companies will be transfered into the blocked account.

Maduro's government on several occasions has threated to arrest the 35-year-old lawmaker, accusing him of violating the constitution and acting as a "puppet" of a USA coup attempt. "I can't tell you anything", Peskov noted.

In claiming residential powers, Guaido said he was acting in accordance with two articles of the constitution that give the National Assembly president the right to hold power temporarily and call new elections.

PDVSA has been moving away from dollar-denominated transactions in the past couple of years, since the Trump administration announced financial sanctions in August 2017.

Brent crude oil futures sank $1.71, or 2.8 percent, to settle at $59.93 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude slumped $1.70, or 3.2 percent, to settle at $51.99 a barrel.

Oil fell about 3 percent on Monday, its biggest one-day percentage drop in a month, after an increase in USA crude drilling pointed to further supply growth amid continuing concerns about a global economic slowdown.

The United States, Canada and many Latin American countries which had refused to recognize Maduro's May 2018 re-election immediately endorsed Guaido as the interim president, setting up the tense showdown in crisis-torn Venezuela.

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