U.S. imposes new sanctions targeting state-owned Venezuelan oil company PdVSA in effort to topple Maduro regime

On 28 January 2019, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) as a Specially Designated National (SDN) for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13850. This action follows the United States’ official recognition of the opposition-led government of interim President Juan Guaido. The designation of PdVSA severely limits permissible transactions with the state-owned oil company and signals a significant escalation of pressure on the Venezuelan government. Embattled President Nicolás Maduro has clung to power despite mounting diplomatic and economic pressure from the United States and other western governments.

In support of the new designation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “Maduro and his cronies have used state-owned PdVSA to control, manipulate, and steal from the Venezuelan people for too long, destroying it in the process.” He further added that “[t]he United States will continue to take concrete and forceful action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela, and serve their own interests rather than those of the Venezuelan people.” Until now, the United States had refrained from designating PdVSA out of concern for the negative effect on the already fragile Venezuelan economy, which relies heavily on the oil industry.

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