1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

US sanctions Venezuela state oil firm PDVSA

January 28, 2019

The state oil firm was responsible for the "country's tragic decline," said the US treasury secretary. Washington has backed the self-declared interim president of Venezuela, throwing the country deeper into crisis.

Venezuelan oil field
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Gutierrez

The US said on Monday that it would impose sanctions on Venezuela's state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), as it ramps up pressure on the country's president, Nicolas Maduro.

The move follows Washington's public backing of National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president last week.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions were meant to prevent Maduro from diverting more resources from the crisis-hit country, until control in Caracas could be transferred to Guaido's interim government or a new democratically elected government.

Mnuchin specified that PDVSA's US-based subsidiary Citgo could continue operations, so long as its earnings are deposited into a blocked account in the US. Maduro accused the US of attempting to steal Citgo, saying the state oil firm will seek legal action against the US.

Washington was "holding accountable those responsible for Venezuela's tragic decline," Mnuchin told reporters.

Read more: Venezuela and the US: From friends to foes


US national security adviser John Bolton, who joined the treasury secretary at the White House briefing, said the measures targeted the government corruption that has allowed Maduro to stay in power.

"We have continued to expose the corruption of Maduro and his cronies and today's action ensures they can no longer loot the assets of the Venezuelan people," Bolton said.

"We also today call on the Venezuelan military and security forces to accept the peaceful, democratic and constitutional transfer of power."

Bolton said that "to a certain extent," the transfer of power had already begun. He noted that Venezuela's military attache to Washington had broken ranks with Maduro over the weekend.

Read more: Venezuela: Who will the military support?

'Dark time'

Around the same time sanctions were announced, self-proclaimed interim president Guaido announced that he was taking control of the country's foreign assets, in an effort to prevent leader Nicolas Maduro from commandeering them in a possible exit from power.

Guaido said in a statement posted on social media that he would begin the process of naming new boards for PDVSA and Citgo to "start recovering our industry that is going through a dark time."

He also pledged to ask lawmakers to take "the necessary measures to guarantee the greatest transparency and control of the use" of the assets.

Read more: Germany to Venezuela: Hold elections or we recognize Guaido

Venezuela is considered one of the largest suppliers of crude oil to the US. In 2008, Venezuela represented approximately 12 percent of US crude imports at 1.2 million barrels a day. But over the years, Venezuelan oil exports to the US have steadily declined, due to plummeting production amid a long economic and political crisis. 

As a result, the US imported less than 500,000 barrels a day of Venezuelan crude and petroleum products in 2017, or 6 percent of the US market, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

ls,jcg/se (AP, Reuters, dpa)