Pence Calls on More Nations to Target PDVSA to Pressure Maduro

(Bloomberg) -- Vice President Mike Pence called on more nations to freeze the assets of Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA and announced U.S. sanctions on four of the country’s state governors after the regime blocked international aid convoys over the weekend.

Pence said Monday the U.S. would impose “even stronger” financial sanctions against the regime of President Nicolas Maduro “in the days ahead.” Pence announced the U.S. measures in an address in Bogota to representatives of a dozen countries in the Americas committed to change in Venezuela, known as the Lima Group.

The blockade of the aid convoys “wasn’t a bold stroke by a triumphant leader,” Pence said. “It was the desperate act of a tyrant clinging to power with violence and intimidation.”

The Trump administration will impose sanctions on Venezuelan governors Omar Jose Prieto Fernandez, Ramon Alonso Carrizalez Rengifo, Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro and Rafael Alejandro Lacava Evangelista, all allies of Maduro who run regions along the country’s border, according to a statement released by the administration.

“These men worked to block aid for people in need and suppress peaceful protests while their tyrant danced in Caracas,” Pence said. “Their actions will not go unpunished.”

The U.S. has already placed sanctions on PDVSA, effectively blocking the Maduro regime from exporting oil to the U.S. Pence asked all members of the Lima group -- which includes Canada and Mexico -- to follow suit by freezing PDVSA assets.

Maduro’s efforts to block the aid convoys have “only steeled the resolve” of the Trump administration to back opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader, Pence said earlier Monday during a meeting with Guaido and Colombian President Ivan Duque in Bogota.

Pence also pledged an additional $56 million to support efforts to aid Venezuelans.

The Venezuelan opposition failed in attempts over the weekend to deliver humanitarian aid to the country. Afterward, Guaido and some U.S. allies suggested a more forceful move against the autocratic regime.

To repel the efforts to bring food and medicine into Venezuela, Maduro closed his borders with Brazil, Colombia and Curacao while positioning military and pro-government armed militias near the crossing points and in border towns to push back and intimidate opposition supporters and aid volunteers.

At least four have died in chaotic clashes and about 60 members of the armed forces defected along the borders of Colombia and Brazil. But the trucks of humanitarian aid donated by nations backing Guaido’s bid for power remained outside the country and Maduro resumed taunting his rivals, crowing on Saturday he is “stronger than ever.”

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