Washington has ordered a total freezing of Bolivarian government assets in the United States.

Une pancarte « Trump, débloque le Venezuela », le 6 août à Caracas.

On Tuesday, August 6, Caracas denounced “the economic terrorism carried out against the people of Venezuela by the Trump administration”. The day before, the US Presidency had announced an unprecedented strengthening of sanctions to end Nicolas Maduro’s “dictatorship”. In a statement issued on Tuesday, the White House confirmed that the United States would use “all appropriate tools” to achieve this goal.

The Venezuelan government’s statement protested against a “criminal blockade” which, “openly violating the principles of the United Nations Charter”, claimed to “strangle the Venezuelan people in order to overthrow the government in an unconstitutional manner”. Donald Trump wants to “build a war,” Venezuelan Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Samuel Moncada said, urging Secretary General Antonio Guterrez and the Security Council to condemn American sanctions.

Signed on Monday by Donald Trump, the presidential decree freezes all assets and interests of the Venezuelan government in the United States and makes it possible to sanction any transaction with the Venezuelan authorities. The decree (referred to as an “executive order”) came into force immediately. Venezuelan government property can no longer be “transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn or negotiated in any way”.

These new sanctions hit a country devastated by nineteen years of Bolivarian revolution and an unprecedented economic crisis. “It is very, very important to put the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people before any other consideration,” UN Secretary General Stéphane Dujarric’s spokesman said on Tuesday.

A “dangerous precedent”

“The United States must understand once and for all that it is not the owners of the world,” said Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez, denouncing the impact of sanctions on the civilian population. According to Rodriguez, “all countries with investments in the United States should be concerned, because Donald Trump’s decision sets a dangerous precedent against private property and a threat to world order. It is not often that the Chavist power is concerned about the fate of private property. The Vice-President was surrounded by several ministers, including the Minister of Defence. The Venezuelan armed forces also issued a statement denouncing Washington’s “aberrant” policy and criticizing the opponents who support it.

Sanctions “are not taken against Venezuela but against the regime,” said Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader, who is recognized by the United States and about 50 other countries as the legitimate president of Venezuela. This is also the opinion of the members of the Lima Group, which brings together a dozen countries of the continent on the Venezuelan question. “We know that the sanctions will have a real impact on the Maduro regime and we hope that they will allow it to leave as soon as possible,” Peruvian Foreign Minister Nestor Popolizio said after a regional summit held this week in Lima.

John Bolton, President Trump’s national security adviser, attended. “We are sending a signal to third parties who want to do business with the Maduro regime: be extremely careful,” he said. The threat is directed at foreign governments, companies and nationals, including China and Russia, who have not let go of Mr. Maduro. “The time for dialogue is over. It is time to act now,” John Bolton said on Monday.

Resumption of talks
The point did not go unnoticed. Caracas accuses the US government of wanting to scuttle the difficult dialogue it has been having with the opposition since May, under the auspices of the Norwegian government. But Juan Guaido said on Tuesday that he did not intend to get up from the negotiating table. Talks “to find a constitutional solution to the Venezuelan crisis” could resume on Thursday, August 8. Highly criticized by the most radical wing of the opposition, they are held on the Caribbean island of Barbados, with no tangible results so far.

Venezuela has therefore joined Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria on the list of countries targeted by drastic US sanctions. Their political effectiveness is a matter of debate, in Venezuela as elsewhere. “The sanctions allow Nicolas Maduro to pose as a victim of American imperialism, when he is solely responsible for the current crisis,” says José Ibarra, a former chavist who has joined the opposition. The American sanctions also put Juan Guaido in a difficult position. “Mr. Guaido defends sanctions that, until now, have only had the effect of worsening the living conditions of Venezuelans,” continues Mr. Ibarra. The government has increased calls in the media and on social networks for national unity and dignity in the face of adversity. The Socialist Party called for a demonstration “against the blockade” on Wednesday.

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