The United States imposed new sanctions on Venezuela in an executive order signed by President Trump on Friday.
A statement released by the White House called on Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro to release political prisoners and hold free and fair elections,
"The United States reiterates our call that Venezuela restore democracy, hold free and fair elections, release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and end the repression of the Venezuelan people. We continue to stand with the people of Venezuela during these trying times. These measures are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance," the White House statement reads.
The White House national security adviser HR McMaster told press that the sanctions were meant to demonstrate that “the United States will not allow illegitimate dictatorship to take hold in the Western Hemisphere at the expense of its people.”
The US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the sanctions were part of a plan to “continue to turn up the heat on the Venezuelan government, and these specific action, we’ve tried to balance things that don’t hurt the Venezuelan people.”
“Maduro may no longer take advantage of the American financial system to facilitate the wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people,” he said, adding that the sanctions were designed to push Venezuela into default and force the closure of its major oil refining unit that relies on US financial services.
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza condemned the sanctions adding,
“Maybe the United States is trying to create a humanitarian crisis in our country? What do they want - they want to starve the Venezuelan people?”
A senior administration official in Washington told reporters that the US was trying “to create a series of escalatory measures that we can take. Obviously the United States has a lot of influence over the Venezuelan economy, but it doesn’t mean we want to rush in and use our influence in an irresponsible manner.”