On February 18th, the US sanctioned Russian oil company Rosneft for doing business with Venezuela’s government under President Nicholas Maduro.
Today we sanctioned Russian-owned oil firm Rosneft Trading S.A., cutting off Maduro’s main lifeline to evade our sanctions on the Venezuelan oil sector. Those who prop up the corrupt regime and enable its repression of the Venezuelan people will be held accountable.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 18, 2020
A senior administration official said that the designation of Rosneft Trading S.A., a subsidiary of the Russia’s Rosneft Oil Company, was “another major step forward toward achieving maximum pressure.”
The sanctions also target Rosneft’s chairman and president, Didier Casimiro, whom an official described as “the main European intermediary to help [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro skirt sanctions.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, “As the primary broker of global deals for the sale and transport of Venezuela’s crude oil, Rosneft Trading has propped up the dictatorial Maduro, enabling his repression of the Venezuelan people.”
According to unnamed US administration officials, the financial support from Rosneft “is what the Maduro regime has been using to sustain its military forces, its oppressive forces to oppress the people of Venezuela” and sanctions should “have a significant impact on the Maduro regime.”
State Department special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said on February 18th that he “would not say that any individual step can be calculated to bring an end to the crisis.”
“But I think this is a very significant step and I think you will see companies all over the world in the oil sector now move away from dealing with Rosneft Trading,” he said during a briefing at the State Department.
He further said that the sanctions would hurt Maduro’s finances.
Earlier, on February 7th, the US Treasury sanctioned Venezuela’s state-owned airline Conviasa, in further attempts to renew pressure.
All of these are a result of a renewed push by the Trump administration to consolidate power under US-Proclaimed Interim President Juan Guaido, as he returned in Venezuela.
“We’re in Caracas now. I bring back with me the commitment of the free world, ready to help us regain democracy and freedom,” Guaido wrote on Twitter, before tweeting a picture of himself at passport control that was captioned “HOME.”
Chavistas were waiting for Guaido to scold him about his efforts to increase U.S. sanctions against Venezuela. pic.twitter.com/SXXlEMcCfG
— HÀÝÀŤ (@care_mariah) February 12, 2020
Shortly after returning, Guaido was met with Venezuela’s biggest corruption case of all time.
On February 15th, Venezuela’s Communication Minister Jorge Rodriguez presented new evidence on a series of corruption acts in which the U.S.-backed opposition lawmaker Juan Gaido is the main protagonist.
Rodriguez unveiled a corruption case linking Guaido with Alejandro Betancourt-Lopez, who faces trials for laundering US$1.2 billion in the United States and US$4 billion in Europe.
Minister Rodriguez recalled that some details of this information had been previously published by Reuters and CNN, although the press would appear not to show that plot of personal connections.
Nevertheless, “we will insist on the denunciation of the greatest plot of corruption that Venezuela’s history has known,” he said and highlighted that mainstream private media hide “Guaido’s brutal robbery. They still have a hard time holding back the stench of so much rot.”
#LIVE | #Venezuela‘s Communication Minister @jorgerpsuv: “The collaborators of Juan Guaido and Leopoldo Lopez have several lawsuits and unjustified money in several countries of the world.” pic.twitter.com/EOqOqhiBWZ
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) February 15, 2020
According to Rodriguez, Alejandro Betancourt-Lopez, who is the cousin of the opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez, would have financed “Popular Will”, the right-wing party from which Guaido separated on January 5th, once his dealings became internationally known.
Guaido, however, was ousted out of the opposition party, after they, too, realized he was heavily corrupted.
“Guaido, videos of your dad talking to you, videos of Betancourt-Lopez talking to you, and videos of you speaking wonders of Betancourt Lopez, are going to be leaked,” Rodriguez said.
The Minister also indicated that his country has sued the U.S. government for “the theft of our foreign assets and bank deposits… The looting equals up to US$116 billion.”
Guaido has very apparently lost all steam, and even meeting with US President Donald Trump in the US, touring around and going back to Venezuela, it appears that very little has changed.
Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, on his part, accused Trump of of plotting to invade Venezuela with the support of regional allies.
“We don’t want war; we don’t want violence; we don’t want terrorism, but we are not afraid of military combat and we are going to guarantee peace,” said Maduro in a televised speech, surrounded by the armed forces high command.
“Donald Trump was convinced that it is easy to get into Venezuela,” said the socialist leader, accusing the US of having assembled a “mercenary force” to invade.
Trump vowed to “smash” Maduro’s rule in his annual State of the Union address to Congress, which was also attended by Guaido, earlier this month.
Trump branded Maduro as a “tyrant” during his speech and called Guaido the “legitimate president of Venezuela.”
Having returned from his 3-week international tour, Guaido claims that a change of government in Venezuela was “inevitable.”
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Venezuela Stages Massive Live-Fire War Drill Amid Invasion Threats
- Guaido is Back in Venezuela, Now What?
- US Sanctions Venezuelan State Airline, Threatens Russian Oil Giant