The Trump administration sanctioned Petroleos de Venezuela SA and the country's central bank on Monday, the latest move to raise pressure on President Nicolas Maduro after the USA recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president.
"We have continued to expose the corruption of (Venezuelan President Nicolas) Maduro and his cronies and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people", USA national security adviser John Bolton told reporters at a White House briefing.
Mr Guaido, the opposition leader who proclaimed himself president last week, has ordered congress to appoint new boards of directors to state oil company PDVSA and its USA subsidiary Citgo. "The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the Interim President or a subsequent, democratically elected government", he said.
Minutes after the announcement, Guaido said he was not underestimating a threat of imprisonment but did not believe it was "anything new".
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Earlier in the day, State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino confirmed in a statement that US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has certified the authority for Juan Guaido to take control of some Venezuelan government assets.
"[The White House is attempting to oust President Maduro for] the same reason there were some intents on ousting president Chavez in 2002 or Maduro in 2014", Peter Dobson, a Venezuelan political analyst, told Al Jazeera.
As a legislator who also heads the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from criminal investigation that can be removed only by the Supreme Court.
Storchak said Venezuela owes Russian Federation $3 billion, with repayments twice a year of around $100 million, with the next due in March.
The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as illegal interference, while China said they would lead to suffering for which Washington would bear responsibility. Brent crude futures surged 2.9% to $61.7 per barrel Tuesday morning on the news, while West Texas Intermediate futures rose 3.4% to $53.9 per barrel. Venezuela is among the world's largest heavy crude oil producers.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the sanctions completely undermined confidence in an worldwide financial system that is dominated by the U.S.
If Maduro doesn't comply with this demand, the European Union said it "will take further actions, including on the issue of recognition of the country's leadership in line with article 233 of the Venezuelan constitution".
But Venezuela is very reliant on the US for its oil revenue.
Russian Federation and China, who are among the countries supporting Maduro's administration and have bankrolled his government, strongly criticized the US sanctions on Monday.
Venezuelans braced for the deepening of a brutal economic crisis on Tuesday after the United States imposed sanctions sharply curbing the country's vital oil exports, while the socialist government responded by refusing to load crude cargoes without payment.
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