Late Monday President Trump signed an executive order imposing a full economic embargo against Venezuela after a week ago the White House began signaling it could seek to "quarantine" and fully "blockade" the Maduro regime if the president doesn't immediately hand over power of his own accord.
The executive order freezes all government assets in the United States and prohibits all transactions by any Venezuelan officials, in what constitutes the first major expansion of sanctions targeting a nation in the western hemisphere in over three decades.
The order focuses on human rights abuses and Maduro’s continued “usurpation” of power as necessary to enact the full embargo, and places the Latin American country on par with Cuba, Syria, Iran and North Korea. Though Trump recently signaled he was "bored" with meddling in Venezuela after a failed military coup earlier this year, the executive order is the latest in a string of measures intent on regime change.
“All property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela that are in the United States ... are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in,” the executive order says. Americans are further prevented from doing business with Venezuela's government or officials, effective immediately.
Though it falls short of an outright trade embargo, it does dramatically escalate US efforts to force a Maduro exit in favor of US-backed opposition leader and self-proclaimed "interim president" Juan Guaido.
A recent Bloomberg report also indicated Trump admin discussions have involved the possibility of imposing a complete blockade on the country by sea, enforced by US Navy ships.
President Maduro slammed the reported discussions in comments last Friday, and directed his ambassador to lodge a formal complaint with the UN Security Council, saying any attempt to block the Venezuelan coastline is "clearly illegal" according to international law and norms. He said in a televised broadcast on Friday: Venezuela's seas would remain "free and independent."
"All of Venezuela, in a civic-military union, repudiates and rejects the statements of Donald Trump about a supposed quarantine, of a supposed blockade," Maduro said in the speech. "A blockade, why would he announce that? It is clearly illegal."