'The birthright of the Venezuelan people has always been & will always be libertad,' Vice President Mike Pence says
The U.S. applied new sanctions on the Venezuelan government on Friday, banning Americans from doing business with the state-owned PDVSA oil and natural gas company.
The decision comes hours after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro tapped the head of the company to be the country’s new oil minister.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence signaled earlier Friday the announcement was imminent, writing on Twitter, "As @POTUS said we will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. The birthright of the Venezuelan people has always been & will always be libertad."
Libertad is the Spanish word for freedom.
A senior U.S. administration official described Friday's actions as an attempt to curtail Caracas' access to new debt. The official stressed the announcement is not a long-rumored oil embargo.
"These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance," the White House said in a statement.
The new penalties prevent new debt being issued to PDVSA with a maturity greater than 90 days by American firms, block U.S. institutions from issuing new debt to the government of Venezuela with a maturity more than 30 days and stops new equity from being issued to Caracas, including PDVSA.
Moreover, certain bonds issued by Venezuela and its state entities may no longer be bought.
But the senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said the new black listings cover only two bonds held exclusively in Venezuela.
The Treasury Department is expected later Friday to detail the bonds still able to be traded in.
The announcement Friday is likely to worsen Venezuela's economic depression, which has resulted in mass demonstrations against Maduro's government and a hardline crackdown on the country's political opposition.