Venezuela rejects new US sanctions and demands to suspend elections

A pro-government supporter holds a sign that reads, "Trump, get out! Respect Venezuela," at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, on August 14, 2017.

A new round of United States sanctions against Venezuela, this time directed against three individuals and their businesses, was rebuffed on May 7 by Samuel Moncada, the Bolivarian Republic’s Vice Minister for Foreign Relations.

They are the latest in a long series of US sanctions directed against Venezuela, including harsh financial sanctions barring dealings in state oil company PDVSA and Venezuelan sovereign debt

Responding to US Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement regarding the measures and his call for other nations in the region to isolate Venezuela, Moncada said: “We don’t accept the United States as court of justice nor as any kind of authority. We are a free country.”

These newest sanctions were announced by Pence during a May 7 speech before the Organisation of American States (OAS), in which he called Venezuela’s upcoming May 20 elections a “sham” and reiterated US demands for the vote to be cancelled.

In response to Pence’s call to suspend the upcoming elections, Moncada replied “There is zero possibility that the elections will be called off.” He added that the current US government was “the most racist and intolerant one in recent decades,” and that “it has been threatening the whole region.”

At the OAS meeting in Washington, Pence urged countries from the region to impose financial and travel restrictions on the country’s leaders, affirming that “it is time to do more, much more” in relation to Venezuela.

Among the additional steps the US administration is reportedly considering are further sanctions targeting the South American country’s oil industry, including a possible oil embargo.

Venezuela’s opposition parties have not commented directly on the latest sanctions, but a number of leading anti-government politicians have endorsed Washington’s hardline stance.

Opposition presidential frontrunner Henri Falcon spoke approvingly of Pence’s remarks, calling Venezuela a “disturbance” to the region.

“Venezuela has become a factor of disturbance for the countries of the region,” he said in an interview with Union Radio on May 8.

Falcon was himself reportedly threatened with US sanctions after he defied a boycott of the May 20 elections by Venezuela’s main right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), agreeing to a series of electoral guarantees with the Venezuelan government.

Meanwhile, MUD-aligned opposition leaders Julio Borges and Carlos Vecchio were present in the OAS meeting and asked for more pressure to be put on Venezuela to prevent the upcoming presidential elections.

In recent months, Borges and Vecchio have been on an international tour, lobbying conservative governments throughout the hemisphere and in Europe for further and tougher sanctions against Caracas.

Last August, the MUD publicly supported the US administration’s economic sanctions targeting Venezuela and PDVSA.

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]

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