Rubio praises expected sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company

Rubio praises expected sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company

The United States on Monday announced sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company, further trying to squeeze Maduro's cash-strapped government.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said President Nicolás Maduro and his allies could "no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people".

Juan Guaido, the apparently pro-Bitcoin leader of the Venezuelan opposition to Nicolas Maduro's presidency, made secret trips overseas in order "to brief [foreign] officials" on his plan to hold mass protests during start of Maduro's second term as president, according to a report in the Associated Press (AP).

PDVSA responded to the sanctions by ordering customers with tankers waiting to load crude destined for the United States to prepay, according to three sources with knowledge of the decision.

The assets include official accounts at USA insured banks as well as funds held by Caracas at the USA federal reserve.

The measures triggered higher global oil prices, angry responses from China and Russian Federation and the first serious moves against Guaido since he challenged Maduro's claim on the presidency last week.

The United States, Brazil and some other countries have recognized Guaido's presidency, with U.S. President Donald Trump warning that "all options are on the table". He noted the sanctions wouldn't affect oil already purchased that is being shipped, and said he didn't expect US gas prices to rise.

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It has also held off on blocking exports of US -origin diluents, which Venezuela needs to dilute its heavy oil. After Maduro broke off relations with the USA , the US threatened to impose sanctions on Venezuelan oil.

Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil producer, operates in Venezuela and has issued loans to PDVSA, backed by oil supplies.

"Experience has proven that external interference or sanctions will only complicate the situation and will not help solve practical problems", foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular media briefing on Tuesday. Both countries have lent billions of dollars to Venezuela and are concerned about new stress on debt payments. Venezuela's ambassador, Jorge Valero, said the Trump administration was preparing a "military invasion" and questioned whether Washington had the moral authority to "impose a diktat" on Caracas.

The military is planning larger exercises on February 10-15, which Maduro said would be the "most important in the history of Venezuela".

"I think, on the one hand, we've been able to cut off Venezuela oil going forward, but we're managing this with the USA refineries", he said. The U.S. considers Vecchio Venezuela's legitimate diplomatic representative to the U.S., the official said.

Guaido rejected accusations from Maduro and others that the U.S.is staging a coup, saying Venezuelan citizens are simply exercising their constitutional rights.

Mnuchin said that Citgo would be able to continue to operate but won't be allowed to remit money to the Maduro regime.

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