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US Sanctions Venezuela's State-owned Oil Company

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National security adviser John Bolton speaks as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin listens during a press briefing at the White House, Jan. 28, 2019, in Washington.

The Trump administration is imposing sanctions on Venezuela's state-run oil company, saying it wants to preserve the assets for the Venezuelan people.

National Security Advisor John Bolton said Monday Venezuelans have had enough of oppression and economic hardship caused by President Nicolas Maduro and his regime.

"Today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," he said.

The sanctions will freeze any assets the state-owned PDVSA has in the United States. U.S. firms and citizens are barred from doing business with it.

PDVSA's U.S.-based subsidiary, Citgo, which refines Venezuelan oil and sells Citgo brand gasoline in the U.S., will continue to operate as usual. But any money Citgo earns will be placed in a blocked account.

FILE - A man walks past the corporate logo of the state oil company PDVSA at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 1, 2017.
FILE - A man walks past the corporate logo of the state oil company PDVSA at a gas station in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 1, 2017.

Maduro said the United States is trying to "steal" Citgo from Venezuela.

"I have given specific instructions to the head of PDVSA to launch political and legal action in U.S. and international courts to defend the property and assets of Citgo," he said on Venezuelan television.

The embattled president also demanded that his U.S. counterpart to keep his "hands off" Venezuela and warned that if violence breaks out in the country "the blood that could flow in Venezuela will be blood that will be on your hands."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Maduro and his allies have long used the state oil company as a vehicle for corruption and embezzlement. He said Venezuela is rich in oil and there is no reason for its people to suffer thorough economic disaster and severe food and fuel shortages.

PDVSA is the country's main source of income and cash from the United States. Venezuela's oil industry has long relied on the United States.

Mnuchin said Venezuela can get relief from the sanctions when control of the oil company is turned over to Juan Guaido — the opposition leader the U.S. recognizes as the interim president — or a democratically-elected government.

Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, speaks to the media after a church service in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 27, 2019.
Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed interim president Juan Guaido, accompanied by his wife Fabiana Rosales, speaks to the media after a church service in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 27, 2019.

Guaido declared himself president last week after his opposition-controlled National Assembly declared Maduro's presidency illegitimate.

"The United States is holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline and will continue to use the full suite of its diplomatic and economic tools to support interim President Juan Guaido, the National Assembly, and the Venezuelan people's efforts to restore their democracy," Mnuchin said.

Bolton warned Maduro Monday that all options are on the table if any U.S. diplomats in Venezuela are harmed.

WATCH: US gets involved in Venezuela

US Announces Sanctions on Venezuela's State-Owned Oil Company
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​The phrase "5,000 troops to Colombia” was seen on a notepad held by national security adviser Bolton at the news conference announcing the sanctions.
Asked to explain the phrase, the White House spokesperson told VOA, "as the president has said, all options are on the table."

Guaido called on Venezuelans to mount a peaceful, two-hour, midday protest Wednesday "to demand that the armed forces side with the people." He is offering amnesty to soldiers who back democracy and reject the current Maduro government.

Bolton said the rank-and-file soldiers and junior officers are looking to back the National Assembly.

"We are waiting for you, the soldiers of Venezuela. We are waiting for you and the commitment you have to our constitution," Guaido said at a Sunday news conference.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 25, 2019.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a press conference at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 25, 2019.

Maduro insisted Sunday that the military is on his side as he watched military exercises using Russian-built rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft machine guns.

"Nobody respects the weak, cowards, traitors. In this world, what's respected are the brave, the courageous, power," Maduro said.

Maduro said he wants peace, but also announced more military games for February. He says they will be "the most important in the history of Venezuela."

The United States has condemned the Venezuelan election, in which Maduro won another term, as a charade that was neither free nor fair.

The collapse of world energy prices, corruption and failed socialist policies have created an economic and humanitarian crisis in oil-rich Venezuela.

Food, fuel and medicine are in extremely short supply. Inflation is out of control. Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country, and Maduro has shown little tolerance for opposition-led protests.

Maduro has blamed his country's woes on the United States, which he accuses of working with the opposition to topple the government.

He has called world leaders who want him gone "Trump sycophants."

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