USA imposes sanctions on Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA

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On Monday, US President Donald Trump's administration also announced sanctions against Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA.

Worldwide challenges to the legitimacy of President Nicolas Maduro's government began to bite harder on Tuesday as the United States handed control over Venezuela's USA bank accounts to opposition challenger Juan Guaido and Russian Federation announced it expects Venezuela to have problems paying its debts. Bolton urged Venezuela's military to accept a peaceful transfer of power to Guaido.

The U.S. Treasury described PDVSA as "a primary source of Venezuela's income and foreign currency" in a statement released later in the day, saying that the blacklist could help "prevent further diverting of Venezuela's assets by Maduro".

The military is planning larger exercises on February 10-15, which Maduro said would be the "most important in the history of Venezuela".

With millions short of food and other basic resources, there is widespread discontent.

The US, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador and Paraguay have officially acknowledged Guaido as the legitimate interim head of Venezuela, while Russia, Iran, Turkey and China, among many other countries, back Maduro.

Washington has moved decisively to seek the exit of Mr Maduro by recognising Mr Guaido and urging the military to switch loyalties.

"Let me reiterate - there will be serious consequences for those who attempt to subvert democracy and harm Guaido", Trump advisor John Bolton tweeted.

"We must use great pressure for a dictator to leave, install a transitional government and have free elections". "In recent years, three million people have fled Venezuela and, according to the United Nations, that number could rise to more than five million by the end of this year", Ms. Freeland told reporters on Parliament Hill Monday.

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Mr Guaido called for a two-hour strike Wednesday "to demand that the armed forces side with the people" ahead of a "big national and global rally" on Saturday.

Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil producer, operates in Venezuela and has issued loans to PDVSA, backed by oil supplies. On Saturday, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain said they would recognize Guaidó if Maduro refuses to call new elections within eight days.

PDVSA is also seeking to sidestep the sanctions by asking major buyers, including US refiners, to renegotiate contracts, sources said.

Guaido, who argues that Maduro usurped the presidency when he began a second six-year term on January 10 following last May's election, has moved to set up new boards of directors for Citgo and PDVSA, which could allow his parallel government to collect money held in escrow accounts in the United States.

The interim President also said the decision to appoint new boards of directors for PDVSA and its only profitable business, Citgo, was part of a drive for "taking progressive and orderly control of the assets of our Republic abroad" to "speed up the political transition". "If measures are not taken soon, inflation will continue to rise, generating a great discontent among the population", Pina added.

The consequences of default are much higher on those bonds since they're backed by a first-priority lien on a 50.1 percent stake in Citgo Holding Inc., PDVSA's US refining arm.

An angry Mr Maduro nevertheless accused the United States of trying to "steal Citgo" and pledged to file legal action over the new sanctions.

Mr Maduro has been in charge since 2013 but his re-election in May was branded illegitimate by the European Union, United States and Organization of American States. Many opposition leaders have been imprisoned in the South American nation.

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