The Trump administration is mulling over sanctions against senior Venezuelan government officials, and additional measures could include sanctions against the country’s oil industry, such as halting imports into the U.S., according to senior Washington officials who spoke to media.
The goal of the sanctions is to prevent the Nicolas Maduro government from having things its way at a July 30 election for a Constituent Assembly that, the U.S. administration believes, would serve to cement Maduro’s power and turn Venezuela into a “full dictatorship.”
The Constitutional Assembly vote was proposed by the government as a means of tackling the political crisis that Venezuela slid into last year, after the election of a new parliament where the opposition had a majority that put it at odds with the government. A Constituent Assembly can rewrite the country’s constitution, and many observers see the move as an attempt to strengthen the current regime’s hold on power.
After months of often violent protests, the opposition has now called a 24-hour national strike after conducting an unofficial referendum that, Al Jazeera reports, suggested overwhelming opposition to the idea of voting for a Constituent Assembly and equally overwhelming support for transparent parliamentary elections.
Russian Sputnik quoted Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Samuel Moncada as saying Venezuela will reconsider its relations with the U.S. should Washington go ahead with the sanctions, which, for the time being, seem to target two senior government officials: Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez and the second most senior figure in the ruling Socialist Party, Diosdado Cabello. The allegations against them are for rights violations.
Venezuela is the third-largest oil exporter to the US, with the daily rate of imports for the week to July 7 at 823,000 barrels, according to the EIA, about 30,000 bpd less than Saudi Arabia’s daily exports to the U.S.
In 2016, Venezuelan imports accounted for 9.5 percent of total U.S. crude imports.