US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has authorized Venezuelan opposition leader and self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido, to take control of US-held assets belonging to the country’s government.
The certification, issued on Tuesday, applies to certain Venezuelan government and Central Bank property held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or any other US insured banks.
“This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,” State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said in a statement.
#BREAKING : #US gives opposition leader @jguaido control over some #Venezuelan/n assets. Now this is a huge development in the domain of world politics, esp its “interference” aspect: strip assets from official gov using your influence to empower whoever else you like.
— Maxim A. Suchkov (@MSuchkov_ALM) January 29, 2019
Opposition leader Juan Guaido swore himself in as Venezuela’s interim president last Wednesday and was recognized as the country’s legitimate leader by the United States shortly afterwards. President Nicolas Maduro denounced Guaido’s claim as a “vile,” Washington-sponsored coup attempt, and severed diplomatic relations with the US in response.
Much of the Western world followed suit in recognizing Guaido and isolating Maduro. The Bank of England reportedly blocked Maduro from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold stored in the UK late last week, and Secretary Pompeo announced that $20 million in humanitarian aid for Venezuela will be distributed through Guaido.
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US sanctions have effectively barred Maduro’s government from borrowing on international markets and targeted anyone involved in gold sales from Venezuela. Venezuela’s gold reserves are estimated at more than $8 billion, while the value of its assets in American banks is unclear.
The Trump administration further ratcheted up its pressure campaign on Maduro by announcing sanctions against Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA on Monday. The US Treasury Department seized $7 billion in PDVSA assets, and the sanctions will affect $11 billion worth of oil exports over the coming year.
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Venezuelan petroleum company Citgo will continue operating in the US,