Administration gives Guaido access to frozen Venezuela bank accounts

Administration gives Guaido access to frozen Venezuela bank accounts

Trump administration gives Venezuelan alternative president access to country’s frozen U.S. bank accounts in bid to ratchet up pressure on Nicolas Maduro – after ordering Americans NOT to travel there

  • The State Department gave opposition leader Juan Guaido access to Venezuela’s frozen bank accounts 
  •  The move follows new sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company 
  •  Venezuela hit back saying Guaido could not leave the country
  •  Security advisor John Bolton warned of ‘serious consequences’  
  • Americans also warned not to travel as protests, hunger, chaos continue 

The Trump administration took another step to ratchet up pressure on the Maduro regime in Venezuela, granting opposition leader Juan Guaido the ability to access the regime’s frozen U.S. bank accounts.

The State Department announced the move a day after the U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil companies and set in place a system to freeze accounts that also could be placed under Guaido’s control.

Venezuela immediately hit back, with the nation’s attorney general warning Guaido was not free to leave the country.

The State Department announced that Venezuela’s National Assembly head and self-proclaimed ‘acting president’ Juan Guaido could access the regime’s U.S. bank accounts, in the latest move to pressure the regime of President Nicolas Maduro

That move drew yet another stern response from National Security Advisor John Bolton.  

‘We denounce the illegitimate former Venezuelan Attorney General’s threats against President Juan Guaido. Let me reiterate – there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido,’ Bolton tweeted.

Amid the increasing tension, the State Department warned Americans against traveling to the nation, which is seeing a resurgence of street protests including deaths of demonstrators, and continuing chaos in the nation. 

Under the latest U.S. policy, Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate president of the country, can access accounts maintained by the government and the nation’s central bank.

The Maduro government responded by announcing that Guaido could not leave the country

Venezuelan opposition demonstrators chant slogans during a protest against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, on the anniversary of 1958 uprising that overthrew military dictatorship in Caracas on January 23, 2019

‘There will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido,’ tweeted National Security advisor John Bolton

Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, gestures following a televised press conference in Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Maduro, speaking from the presidential palace in front of press, military and government officials, broadcast his comments across all radio and television airwaves and channels, showcasing his total control over the state apparatus despite Guaido’s claims to legitimacy

The move would ‘protect Venezuela’s patrimony from further theft by Maduro’s corrupt regime,’ according to the statement, calling out President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

‘This certification will help Venezuela’s legitimate government safeguard those assets for the benefit of the Venezuelan people,’ it continued. 

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek Saab said he had asked the Supreme Court to open a preliminary investigation into Guaido, accusing him of helping foreign countries to interfere in internal matters. He also asked the court to impose a travel ban on the 35-year-old leader and to freeze his bank accounts. 

Bolton responded by warning of ‘serious consequences,’ while state-run oil company PDVSA sought to sidestep U.S. sanctions.

In another sign of support, Vice President Mike Pence met with Guaido’s newly named acting Charge d’affaires Carlos Alfredo Vecchio. 

He said at the White House Tuesday his nation had a ‘unique opportunity’ now after 20 years of fighting for democracy.

‘We have a united opposition right now…we have a strong national assembly….and we have the democratic world backing us, supporting our agenda, so this is a unique opportunity,’ he said.

‘This is a fight between a dictatorship, which is totally controlled by the Cuban regime, against the free world. We cannot do this alone,’ he added.

The sweeping sanctions on PDVSA, announced on Monday and aimed at curbing crude exports to the United States and driving Maduro from power, were the strongest measures yet against the 56-year-old former union leader who has overseen economic collapse and an exodus of millions of Venezuelans in recent years.

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The measures triggered higher global oil prices, angry responses from China and Russia and the first serious moves against Guaido since he challenged Maduro’s claim on the presidency last week.

The United States and several other countries have recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state and denounced Maduro as a usurper. Maduro, sworn in on Jan. 10 for a second term after disputed elections last year, accuses Guaido of staging a U.S.-directed coup against him. Maduro is backed by a number of countries, including Russia.

Maduro’s inauguration sparked protests throughout Venezuela. Over 40 people are believed to have been killed in political violence last week, including 26 shot by pro-government forces, five killed in house raids and 11 during looting, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Tuesday.

He said more than 850 people were detained between Jan. 21 and Jan. 26, including 77 children, some as young as 12.

Guaido said on Tuesday he did not underestimate the threat of imprisonment but did not believe it was ‘anything new.’ Many opposition leaders have been imprisoned in the South American nation.

‘We are here. We will keep acting and working to confront the humanitarian crisis,’ Guaido told a news conference.

Most experts believe the sanctions and other measures against Maduro will encourage him to step down only if he loses the support of the powerful military, which until now has been mostly loyal to the leftist ruling party founded by late President Hugo Chavez.

Maduro appeared on a television broadcast from a military base on Tuesday, praising the soldiers’ loyalty.

As a lawmaker who heads the National Assembly, Guaido has immunity from prosecution unless ordered by a top court. However, the Supreme Court is loyal to Maduro and is expected to quickly open the investigation.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it had certified Guaido’s authority to control certain assets held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or other U.S.-insured banks, including government and central bank accounts.


PDVSA responded to the sanctions by ordering customers with tankers waiting to load crude destined for the United States to prepay, according to sources. Such prepayment could be in violation of the sanctions, setting the stage for a standoff at the ports.

PDVSA is also seeking to sidestep the sanctions by asking major buyers, including U.S. refiners, to renegotiate contracts, sources said.

The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as illegal interference, while China said they would lead to suffering for which Washington would bear responsibility. Both countries have lent billions of dollars to Venezuela and are concerned about new stress on debt payments.

International Brent crude oil futures rose over 2 percent on Tuesday in reaction. Venezuela is among the world’s largest heavy crude oil producers.

The new U.S. sanctions could cause problems for Venezuela when it comes to servicing its sovereign debt to Russia, which stands at $3.15 billion, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak told reporters on Tuesday.

In Geneva, senior U.S. and Venezuelan diplomats traded jibes at a disarmament conference. Venezuela’s ambassador, Jorge Valero, said the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump was preparing a ‘military invasion’ and questioned whether Washington had the moral authority to ‘impose a diktat’ on Caracas.

Venezuela has sunk into economic and political turmoil under Maduro’s socialist government, with inflation seen rising to 10 million percent this year.

The loss of revenue from the United States, the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan crude, is sure to further hamper the government’s ability to import basic goods like food and medicine, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has prompted more than 3 million people to leave the country in recent years.

‘Sanctions on Venezuela will lead to the deterioration of conditions of people’s lives,’ Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing in Beijing.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Mayela Armas and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas; Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles in Geneva; Shadia Nasralla in London; Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Michael Martina in Beijing; and Darya Korsunskaya in Moscow Writing by Frank Jack Daniel Editing by Daniel Flynn, Frances Kerry and Rosalba O’Brien)

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