US announces sweeping sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, state-owned oil company

When can Venezuela expect ousted President Maduro to step down?

The White House on Monday announced billions of dollars in new sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and the country’s state-owned oil monopoly PDVSA, less than a week after President Trump formally recognized Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

The potentially devastating economic move was aimed at increasing pressure on Maduro to cede power to the opposition. PDSVA is the acronym for the state-owned oil company.

"Today’s designation of PDVSA will help prevent further diverting of Venezuela’s assets by Maduro and preserve these assets for the people of Venezuela," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said during a White House news conference. "The path to sanctions relief for PDVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent democratically elected government who is committed to taking concrete and meaningful actions to combat corruption."

Mnuchin added: "Effective immediately, any purchases of Venezuelan oil by U.S. entities — money will have to go into blocked accounts. Now, I’ve been in touch with many of the refineries — there is a significant amount of oil that’s at sea, that’s already been paid for — that oil will continue to come to the United States."

Monday’s move was intended to "hold accountable those responsible for Venezuela’s tragic decline," Mnuchin said. He vowed that the White House would continue to "support interim President Guaido, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people’s efforts to restore their democracy."

Speaking minutes earlier, National Security Adviser John Bolton reiterated in what he called an "unequivocal" statement that the White House was monitoring the situation in Venezuela carefully, and that "all options are on the table."

"The people of Venezuela have had enough of oppression, corruption, and economic hardship," Bolton told reporters, noting that 21 other governments have joined the U.S. in recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.

Bolton added: "We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies. Today’s action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people. … Today’s measure totals $7 billion in assets blocked today, plus over $11 billion in lost export proceeds over the next year."

"I reiterate that the United States will hold Venezuelan security forces responsible for the safety of all U.S. diplomatic personnel, the National Assembly, and President Guaido," Bolton continued. "Any violence against these groups would signify a grave assault on the rule of law and will be met with a significant response."

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

"The Maduro crime family has used PDVSA to buy and keep the support of many military leaders," Rubio said. "The oil belongs to the Venezuelan people, and therefore the money PDVSA earns from its export will now be returned to the people through their legitimate constitutional government."

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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