Trump punishes Maduro government with financial sanctions

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence listens as Venezuelan exile Maria Eugenia Tovar speaks during a meeting with the exile community Wednesday in Doral Fla. Tovar is holding

Last month, the Trump administration slapped sanctions on 13 current and former officials of Maduro's government, freezing their assets in the United States and preventing Americans from doing business with them.

US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order that prohibits dealings in new debt from the Venezuelan government or its state oil company.

To view the full article, register now. The executive order also allows debt financing for exports of food, medicine and other humanitarian goods.

Maduro's moves come after the nearly 90% drop in profits at Petroleos de Venezuela SA previous year amid declining output and a drop in oil prices.

But the sanctions don't apply to short-term financing for oil sales. It also targets sanctions for the first time on the state oil company PDVSA, although at the moment, the White House did not take the big step of imposing an oil embargo.

Del Pino, who has worked for PDVSA for about 30 years, had been in charge of the company from 2014 until January, when his dual roles of president and oil minister were split to make Martinez, previously the head of USA -based unit Citgo Petroleum Corp., the new minister.

U.S. officials said the latest sanctions were also created to stop the government from stripping state assets in order to pay the bills.

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The widely anticipated sanctions come days after Vice President Mike Pence hinted earlier this week that Washington would be ramping up pressure on Venezuela. He says his government won't let the U.S.

"The president is making sure that the US financial system will not be complicit in any future further placement of debt that would allow the Venezuelan government to finance this abhorrent behavior", a senior administration official told reporters.

But with Venezuela's streets calmer than they have been for months, and the opposition still reeling from its failure to prevent the constitutional assembly from going forward, action from increasingly concerned worldwide community represents the best chance of reining in Maduro, he added.

Most trade between the two countries could continue to be financed as well as humanitarian assistance.

The government and state oil company have about $4 billion in debt payments coming due before the end of the year but only $9.7 billion in global reserves on hand, the vast majority consisting of gold ingots that are hard to trade immediately for cash.

The sanctions are nonetheless another blow to Venezuela's economy.

Venezuela is now in crisis.

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