US warns against trade with Venezuelan government
The U.S. issued a stern ultimatum to the international business community Wednesday, warning against commodity-based trade with the Venezuelan government, just two days after Washington blacklisted Venezuela's state-owned oil company.
"My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don't deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia," National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Twitter.
"We stand ready to continue to take action," he added.
The warning comes amid a campaign spearheaded by Washington to apply fiscal and diplomatic pressure on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to cede power to National Assembly President Juan Guaido, who claimed power last week.
The U.S.-imposed sanctions on Venezuela's oil company also apply to a joint venture with Nicaragua's state-owned oil company, ALBANISA, Bolton said in a separate tweet.
The U.S., Canada and most Latin American nations have recognized Guaido as the country's legitimate leader. He called for a new wave of mass demonstrations Wednesday and Saturday after similar marches last week filled streets across the nation.
Washington warned of severe repercussions if Guaido is harmed while Maduro has defied calls to step down, insisting the U.S. is orchestrating a coup against his government.
Maduro said earlier Wednesday in remarks to Russia's news media he is willing to sit down for negotiations with the opposition, but defied calls for new elections in the country.
Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.
The country is experiencing widespread shortages of food and medicine, and is set to experience inflation of 10 million percent, according to the International Monetary Fund.