John Bolton unveils historic asset freeze on Venezuela's Maduro regime
President Trump is intensifying sanctions on Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro, pairing a historic asset freeze with threats to punish anyone in the world who does business with his regime.
“We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: Proceed with extreme caution,” White House national security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday. “There is no need to risk your business interests with the United States for the purposes of profiting from a corrupt and dying regime.”
That warning, which Bolton delivered in Peru at a conference of 50 nations aligned against Maduro’s dictatorship, could lead to expanded sanctions against Russian and Chinese companies providing Maduro financial and logistical support, as well as any European companies still doing business with the regime. The executive order authorizing those sanctions was hailed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó — whom Trump and other Western leaders recognized as the legitimate interim president in January — as negotiations to schedule elections have been at an impasse with Maduro’s refusal to agree to leave office.
“Any individual, company, institution or nation that tries to do business with the regime will be seen by the international justice system as collaborating with and sustaining a dictatorship,” Guaidó tweeted after Trump signed the order Monday night. “They will be subject to sanctions and considered an accomplice to crimes.”
The executive order prevents the Maduro regime’s international creditors from taking control of Citgo, the Venezuelan state-owned oil company’s U.S. affiliate, as payment for the regime’s debts. “Today there is no possibility of losing Citgo,” Guaidó added Tuesday.
The decision stopped short of a naval blockade of Venezuela, but Bolton fired a rhetorical shot across the bow of Cuba, which has deployed thousands of security personnel in exchange for Venezuelan oil.
“The United States is taking assertive actions to break the ties between Venezuela and Cuba,” he said. “Our sanctions against vessels transporting oil between the two countries are but just the beginning.”
That maneuver is the first asset freeze the United States has imposed on a government in the Western Hemisphere since 1988, and it puts Venezuela on a short list that also includes North Korea and Iran.
“The Maduro regime now joins that exclusive club of rogue states,” Bolton said in Peru.
The move could foreshadow an array of muscular moves against adversarial governments in Latin America. Bolton hinted that Trump could use the same tactic against Nicaragua, another country aligned with Maduro that has drawn international condemnation in recent years for human rights abuses and repression of political dissidents.
“It worked in Panama, it worked in Nicaragua once, and it will work there again, and it will work in Venezuela and Cuba,” Bolton said. “We’ve made it clear that Maduro, the Russians, and the Cubans should not do anything to put more innocent civilians in harm’s way, nor should they retaliate against Juan Guaidó. We must work together to safeguard this hemisphere from external meddling that threatens regional peace and security, democracy, and prosperity.”