United States eyes oil sanctions on Venezuela

Saul Bowman
February 6, 2018

Sanctioning oil would be a drastic move, and it is the latest hint by the U.S. that it could further crack down on Venezuela.

At the same time, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declared that the United States is alarmed with Russia's activities in the region.

Tillerson's visit is also important because it represents an opportunity to let the U.S. Government know the Latin American countries' concerns about its protectionist trade policy.

Washington may be nearing a decision on extending sanctions against Venezuela to include imports of Venezuelan crude and exports of US refined products to the troubled South American country.

"The situation is becoming quite dire in Venezuela", said Tillerson, who added that the administration was weighing the effect of sanctions on the Venezuelan people - and whether they would quickly produce the desired result.

In Buenos Aires, Rex Tillerson discussed with the Argentine authorities the joint struggle with worldwide criminal organizations, as well as the presence of representatives of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement in Western Hemisphere countries.

"What the United States said is entirely against the truth and displayed disrespect to the vast number of Latin American countries", the ministry said.

The top USA diplomat has received support from other governments in the Americas, including on Sunday from his Argentine counterpart Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, but some are cautious about sanctions.

Donald Trump y Nicolas Maduro.

Oil-rich and once one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, Venezuela under Maduro faces economic collapse and widespread popular protest.

US Threatens to Ban Venezuelan Oil

"We have not advocated for regime change or removal of President Maduro".

"And then, if he is not re-elected by the people, so be it", Tillerson said.

Maduro, for his part, swiftly rebuked the US.

Maduro shot back, in a video on Facebook, saying that Tillerson "has just threatened us with an oil boycott". "We are prepared, Venezuela".

"But imperialism. has turned out to be a paper tiger, and here we have a true and vigorous revolution", the incumbent added. "Nothing and nobody is going to stop us".

Maduro has accused the United States and its allies of trying to undermine his socialist government.

USA officials, including Trump, have floated the possibility of oil sanctions on Venezuela, but such measures have been criticized as likely to have an outsize effect on people in Venezuela, which gets roughly 95% of its export revenue from oil.

Analysts say US oil sanctions could completely cripple the Venezuelan economy.

"One thing working in the Trump administration's favor is that Venezuela's inability to produce has decreased the amount of Venezuelan oil that the USA consumes", Greg Weeks, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, wrote on Monday. Sanctioning oil exports could make matters much worse.


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