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U.S. official: ‘Very significant’ Venezuela sanctions to be imposed in days

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March 12 (UPI) — The United States is preparing to impose “very significant” sanctions against financial institutions related to the Venezuelan crisis, U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams said Tuesday.

The announcement of new sanctions comes a day after the U.S. Treasury imposed restraints on Evrofinance Mosnarbank, a bank jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan companies, which has been used by embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for money laundering and embezzlement.

Abrams did not elaborate on the sanctions other than that they would not target countries but financial institutions and that they would be imposed within days.

The United States will also be revoking visas to those with connections to Maduro, he said.

“There will be more sanctions on financial institutions — I think I would leave it at that — and more visa revocations coming very soon,” Abrams said during a State Department press briefing.

Earlier Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the withdrawal of all remaining American personnel from its embassy in Venezuela, citing the deteriorating political situation there.

Abrams said Pompeo was following up on the late January announcement recalling a majority of Americans from the U.S. embassy in Caracas.

“It is a reflection of the deterioration that we see on the ground in Venezuela, and it is, in essence, a follow-up to the major part of the decision, which was made on Jan. 24, to take most of the embassy staff,” he said.

The South American country was experiencing an ongoing power outage Tuesday that has closed schools and business as well as the Caracas subway system. Maduro’s government has blamed the outage on cyberattacks launched by the United States.

In Pompeo‘s announcement of personnel withdrawal, he said the American embassy posed a “constraint on U.S. policy” that suggested the possibility of military intervention.

Abrams told journalists at the briefing that he wouldn’t try to interpret the secretary’s words but that the safety of the nation’s citizens weighed “very heavily on our mind every day.”

Asked if the comment was a threat, Abrams said the U.S policy hasn’t changed: “all options are on the table,” he said repeating President Donald Trump‘s words.

The removal also does not waver the United State’s support of the leader of the opposition and interim president Juan Guaido, he said.

Trump voiced the nation’s support for Guaido, 35, on Jan. 23 following the Venezuelan Congress‘s voiding of Maduro’s 2018 re-election.

Since then, Maduro has painted American support for Guaido as a U.S.-backed coup, despite some 53 other countries recognizing the opposition leader as interim president.

China, Cuba and Russia continue to back Maduro.

Abrams said they are working on bringing China “on board.”

He said if China‘s concern is retrieving money it had previously loaned Maduro, they shouldn’t — they will get their money back, but only if they support Guaido.

“They’ll never get it back from the bankrupt Maduro regime and from a basically destroyed Venezuelan economy,” he said. “As the Secretary explained yesterday, the only way they’ll get it back is when Venezuela returns to prosperity, which it won’t do under Nicolas Maduro.”

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