White House warns against 'harm' to Venezuela opposition leader Guaido

The Trump administration on Monday (Jan 28) imposed sweeping sanctions on Venezuelan state-owned oil firm PDVSA, the toughest U.S. financial measure so far against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Guaido said in an interview with CNN in Spanish on Monday that Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress had approved a measure asking foreign nations to ensure the country's assets aren't "looted" by Maduro.

Venezuela is in the midst of a constitutional crisis involving Maduro-who this month was sworn in for a second term as Venezuela's president following an election that dozens of countries, including the United States, called a sham-and Guaidó, who declared himself president last week. The United States on Monday slapped sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., or known as PDVSA. However, so far, Mr Maduro has retained the backing of the powerful armed forces, as well as support from Russian Federation and China.

The United States will issue temporary licenses to ensure US, Caribbean and European refineries that rely on Venezuelan crude can keep buying PDVSA oil but he said many had been taking steps to find other sources. "They should bear responsibility for the serious consequences from this", he said.

Top officials in the Trump administration - including the president himself - say "all options are on the table" as speculation swirls over whether the U.S.is planning to take military action in the embattled country.

The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as illegal interference, while China said they would lead to suffering for which Washington would bear responsibility. Such prepayment could be in violation of the sanctions, setting the stage for a standoff at the ports.

The new USA sanctions could cause problems for Venezuela when it came to servicing its sovereign debt to Russia, which stands at $3.15 billion, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters.

Western Canada is the third-largest supplier behind Mexico and Venezuela to the U.S. Gulf Coast region but it is "plagued by egress and policy challenges", RBC said. He also pledged to retaliate, but did not announce any specific measures.

Traders at some major US hedge funds said their lawyers advised them not to touch the bonds for now without further guidance from Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

In an apparent effort to minimise negative fallout in the United States, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Citgo in the United States would be able to continue to operate provided funds go to a blocked account.


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