CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton pressed his case Tuesday for sweeping action against Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro, warning foreign governments and companies that they could face retaliation in the U.S. if they continue to do business with his socialist administration.
Bolton’s comments came after the White House froze all Venezuelan government assets in the U.S. late Monday, putting the country on a short list of U.S. adversaries, including Cuba, North Korea and Iran that have been targeted by such aggressive financial measures.
“The Maduro regime now joins that exclusive club of rogue states,” Bolton said at a one-day conference in Peru of more than 50 governments aligned against Maduro.
The broad ban blocking companies and individuals from doing business with Maduro’s government and its top supporters took effect immediately and is the first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere since an asset freeze against Gen. Manuel Noriega’s government in Panama and a trade embargo on the Sandinista leadership in Nicaragua in the 1980s.
“We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: Proceed with extreme caution,” Bolton said. “There is no need to risk your business interests with the United States for the purposes of profiting from a corrupt and dying regime.”
While the order falls short of an outright trade embargo — notably, it spares Venezuela’s still sizable private sector — it represents the most sweeping U.S. action to remove Maduro since the Trump administration recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful leader in January.
Critically, it also exposes foreign entities doing business with the Maduro government to so-called secondary sanctions in the U.S. — a fact not lost on Maduro’s government as it tries to rally support at home and abroad.
“The U.S. has to understand once and for all that they aren’t the owners of the world,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said in a statement from Caracas. “Every country that has investments in the U.S. should be very worried because this sets a dangerous precedent against private property.”
Flanked by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, who the U.S. has tried to woo into betraying Maduro, Rodriguez said the sanctions would only bring more hardship on the Venezuelan people without weakening the socialist revolution.
She also posited that Washington’s real aim is to sabotage ongoing negotiations in Barbados with the opposition aimed at resolving the country’s protracted political and economic crisis.
A senior Trump administration official said the timing of the sanctions reflects the U.S. assessment that those talks, which started in May and are being sponsored by Norway, are going nowhere and being used by the Maduro government to buy time. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to comment on the talks.