U.S. considering some sanctions on Venezuela oil sector

U.S. considering some sanctions on Venezuela oil sector
# 31 July 2017 09:51 (UTC +04:00)

The Trump administration is considering imposing U.S. sanctions on Venezuela's vital oil sector in response to Sunday's election of a constitutional super-body that Washington has already denounced as a "sham" vote, U.S. officials said.

The measures, which could be announced as early as Monday, are not expected to include a ban on Venezuelan oil shipments to the United States -- one of the harshest options -- but could block sale of lighter U.S. crude that Venezuela mixes with its heavy crude and then exports, the officials told Reuters.

While no final decisions have been made, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States could also target further senior Venezuelan officials. But the timing of any new individual sanctions, such as those imposed on 13 Venezuelan figures last week, remained uncertain.

Other options still under consideration, the officials said, include various measures to restrict access by the Venezuelan government and state oil company PDVSA to the U.S. banking system, the sources said.

But it was not clear whether the U.S. administration was ready to take such action or would instead hold it in reserve if further escalation is deemed necessary following the Venezuelan ballot, which was widely boycotted and sparked deadly protests. Washington has backed the Venezuelan opposition's view that the vote is intended to cement dictatorship.

The new round of sanctions is intended to make good on President Donald Trump's threat of "strong and swift economic actions" if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro went ahead with Sunday's election of a controversial new congress, the officials said.

But the U.S. response, though expected to be the toughest yet against Maduro's leftist government since Trump took office, is also being calibrated to avoid causing further suffering to the Venezuelan people or seriously damaging U.S. economic interests, the officials said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.