On July 26, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it had placed 13 Venezuelan nationals on the list of Specially Designated Nationals with whom U.S. persons are forbidden from doing business. The people added to the list are high-ranking officials in buisnesspeople well-connected to the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, including Venezuelan interior minister Reverol Torres.
The sanctions come as Maduro has called for a national vote to elect a constituent assembly to re-write his country’s constitution, a move which critics including the Trump administration have derided as a power grab. The new constitution seems likely to be written in a way to solidify Maduro’s power by weakening democratic institutions, even as his approval ratings fall below 20% amidst an economic crisis which has caused widespread poverty and protest in the nation.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, in the statement announcing the sanctions, explicitly stated that they were in response to the Maduro regime’s actions: “As President Trump has made clear, the United States will not ignore the Maduro regime’s ongoing efforts to undermine democracy, freedom and the rule of law. As our sanctions demonstrate, the United States is standing by the Venezuelan people in their quest to restore their country to a full and prosperous democracy.”
“Anyone elected to the National Constituent Assembly should know that their role in undermining democratic processes and institutions in Venezuela could expose them to potential U.S. sanctions,” Mr. Mnuchin added in his statement.
Among the names included on this round of sanctions includes Simón Zerpa, vice president of finance at Petróleos de Venezuela, known as Pdvsa, the state-run oil company. Mnuchin also mentioned in a conference call after the announcement that further sanctions could additionally target the state oil sector. Venezuela currently exports 700,000 barrels of crude oil a day into the U.S., and imports 100,000 barrels a day of refined oil from the U.S.; more expansive sanctions limiting that trade would further cripple the nation’s oil-reliant economy (an economy which has already suffered as oil prices have declined globally).
The full list of sanctioned individuals can be found here: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20170726.aspx