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Trump signs new economic sanctions against Venezuela

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File President Nicolas Maduro was elected in 2013 after the death of his late mentor Hugo Chavez

The Trump administration banned trades of Venezuelan debt, prohibiting Maduro's government and its state-run oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela SA, from selling new bonds to Americans or in US financial institutions.

In other words, they would not affect US oil imports from Venezuela. The White House issued a statement targeting Maduro's creation of a "constituent assembly" to replace the National Assembly and rewrite the Venezuelan constitution.

The financial sanctions drew quick rebuke from Venezuela's government, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza calling them the worst aggression against the country in two centuries.

Until now, the USA has taken care to target individuals within Venezuela's evolving dictatorship.

Venezuela's former oil minister Eulogio Del Pino will resume the role while incumbent Nelson Martinez will take over as the new chief of the state energy firm PDVSA, the Venezuelan president said Thursday.

David Smilde, a Tulane University sociologist who has spent decades researching Venezuela, said blanket sanctions that immediately cut off the government's cash flow and hurt the population are likely to strengthen Maduro in the short-term.

A senior Trump administration official, speaking on background, said Maduro was rewarding and enriching corrupt officials within Venezuela's government "by allowing them to ramp up massive debt".

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Venezuela's economy has been collapsing even as Maduro's government has lashed out at the US, with Maduro's son even threatening violence against Trump.

The White House says Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is leading a dictatorship. They also also prohibit dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.

The White House said its sanctions were "calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing" while allowing for some humanitarian exceptions.

Maduro also said that a blockade preventing the arrival of food and medicine to the country could be used to exacurbate crises before a potential invasion.

During a Latin America tour this month, Pence downplayed President Trump's recent talk of a "military option" for Venezuela while repeatedly raising the specter of sanctions.

"Yesterday's illegitimate elections confirm that Maduro is a dictator who disparages the Venezuelan people's desires", said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, after the vote whose full results were never released.

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