Aug. 6 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order freezing all assets of the Venezuelan government, further tightening restrictions on embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
The sanctions are the latest economic maneuvers targeting the Maduro government since late July when the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned 13 entities and 10 individuals, including three of Maduro’s stepsons, for running an alleged corrupt network of shell companies to siphon money from the country’s emergency food subsidy program.
The United States government has been applying pressure on Maduro to step down since January when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president after last year’s re-election of Maduro was deemed illegitimate. Since then, over 50 countries, including the United States and most democratically elected governments, have backed Guaido’s claim to the country’s helm.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Trump said he had determined it was necessary to block all assets of the Venezuelan government “in light of the continued usurpation of power by the illegitimate Nicolas Maduro regime, as well as the regime’s human rights abuses, arbitrary arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, curtailment of free press and ongoing attempts to undermine interim president Juan Guaido of Venezuela and the democratically elected Venezuelan National Assembly.”
The sweeping sanctions block all property and assets of the Venezuelan government in the United States from being involved in any transactions, according to the executive order.
The only other countries under such heavy U.S. sanctions are North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba.
The U.S. Treasury had also applied sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, in January.
In February, Vice President Mike Pence announced sanctions on Venezuelan governors who back Maduro.
Last Thursday, Trump said he was considering heightening pressure against Maduro. When asked by a reporter if he was considering a blockade or quarantine of Venezuela to cut it off from Russian, Chinese and Iranian assistance, Trump said, “Yes, I am.”