On Monday, the Trump administration announced the seizure of billions of dollars of Venezuela's assets connected to Petroleos de Venezuela, the state-owned oil company, according to Common Dreams.
Critics say this move is part of a “dangerous” U.S. policy to assist the overthrow of Nicolás Maduro, the country’s elected president.
National Security Advisor John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the sanctions against Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA). The oil company is a primary source of income for Venezuela.
Mnuchin said that the U.S. "will continue to use all of our diplomatic and economic tools" to back Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself Venezuela's "interim president." He continued, "the path to sanctions relief for PdVSA is through the expeditious transfer of control to the interim president or a subsequent, democratically-elected government."
Mnuchin said PDVSA has long been a vehicle for embezzlement and corruption by officials and businessmen. The sanctions will prevent the nation's oil wealth from being diverted to Maduro and will only be lifted when his regime hands control of PDVSA to a successor government, he added.
Under the sanctions, U.S. companies can continue to purchase Venezuelan oil, but the payments must be held in an account that cannot be accessed by the Maduro regime.
"If the people in Venezuela want to continue to sell us oil, as long as that money goes into blocked accounts, we'll continue to take it," Mnuchin said. "Otherwise we will not be buying it."
Jeffery D. Sachs, an economics professor and senior U.N. advisor Jeffery D. Sachs warned, “this is very dangerous.” He is concerned that actions taken by the administration will cause widespread suffering among the people of Venezuela.
"The problem here is that these efforts by the United States to change other countries' governments often lead to catastrophe," Sachs said, "as has happened all through the Middle East in recent years."
"Very often Washington says, 'Somebody must go,'" he continued. "And this is how our foreign policy often works—it's very arrogant [to say] who should rule in another country. By the way, Maduro is not a decent, pleasant man—but on the other hand, for Washington to just announce that a self-declared politician is the president, is kind of an American regime change tradition."