The United States targeted Venezuela‘s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of its state-owned oil company PDVSA after deadly violence blocked aid from reaching the crisis-hit country during the weekend.
The US also took its pressure campaign to the United Nations Security Council, asking that body to discuss the situation in Venezuela, diplomats said.
The US Treasury Department’s sanctions were imposed on four Venezuelan state governors allied with the government of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, blocking any assets they control in the US.
The new sanctions were announced in Bogota as US Vice President Mike Pence and opposition leader Juan Guaido met with members of the Lima Group, a bloc of nations from Argentina to Canada dedicated to find a resolution in the Venezuelan crisis.
“We are with you 100 percent,” Pence said ahead of the start of the meeting.
“I want to assure you, President Guaido, the tragic events of this past weekend have only steeled the resolve of the United States to stand with you.”
“We will keep standing until your ‘libertad’ is restored.”
Pence also said the US was readying an additional $56m in aid, and he called on Latin American allies to increase pressure on Maduro’s government.
“We call on all Lima Group nations to immediately freeze the assets of PDVSA. Secondly, transfer ownership of Venezuelan assets in your country from Maduro’s henchmen to President Guaido’s government,” Pence said, according to prepared remarks.
He also called on the countries to restrict visas for officials close to Maduro and to vote to recognise the representative of Juan Guaido, Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, at the Inter-American Development Bank.
“In the days ahead … the United States will announce even stronger sanctions on the regime’s corrupt financial networks,” Pence added.
“We will work with all of you to find every last dollar that they stole and work to return it to Venezuela.”
To President @jguaido of Venezuela, it is a great privilege to share this moment. I bring you and President of Colombia @IvanDuque a very simple message from @POTUS Trump & the United States of America: We are with you 100%. pic.twitter.com/iEaTyDvB7i
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 25, 2019
Meanwhile Maduro tweeted that Venezuela will sort its own issues, without “the empire and its lackeys”.
China, who supports Maduro, said on Monday that it opposes “intervention by external forces in the international affairs of Venezuela”.
China “also opposes using the so-called humanitarian aid to serve political ends and stir up instability and even turmoil in Venezuela and its neighbourhood, which is not in the interests of any party,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang added.
Violent clashes with security forces over the US-backed opposition’s attempt on Saturday to take aid into Venezuela left almost 300 wounded and at least three protesters dead near the Brazilian border.
“The illegitimate Maduro regime’s attempts to blockade international aid intended for the Venezuelan people are shameful,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement announcing the sanctions.
“Treasury is targeting four state governors aligned with former President Maduro for standing in the way of severely needed humanitarian assistance and prolonging the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” he added.
The Trump administration last month slapped sanctions on state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, known as PDVSA, to cut Maduro off from his government’s main source of revenues.
The group has previously asked the US to impose an oil embargo on Venezuela, a Peruvian diplomatic source said.
The Chilean delegation is expected to push to maintain dialogue with Maduro but also to back commercial sanctions and further blocking of Venezuela’s participation in international groups, Chilean media reported.
Brazil’s vice president has previously insisted that there is no military solution to the crisis.
Al Jazeera and news agencies