US sanctions came into effect yesterday to block Venezuela’s economic lifeline of oil exports, in what Washington hopes will be a major blow in its fledgling campaign to topple leftist President Nicolas Maduro.
As of 12:01 am Washington time (0401 GMT), the United States will take action against anyone who deals with state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, or any entity in which the company holds at least a 50 percent stake.
It is among a volley of steps by President Donald Trump’s administration to oust Maduro and install opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized by more than 50 countries, including most in Latin America.
Until the crisis, Venezuela exported 500,00 barrels a day to the United States, its largest customer. Energy-hungry India was the third-biggest buyer of Venezuelan oil in 2017 after the United States and China and until recently had been a major source of cash.
But Indian companies have backed off in the face of US sanctions, making China and Russia the crucial economic and political backers of Maduro -- whose re-election last year was widely criticized for irregularities.
The sanctions take effect just as global oil markets are trending higher after the United States similarly demanded that all countries, notably India and China, stop buying oil from Iran.
Oil is the blood of Venezuela’s crippled economy, accounting for 96 percent of exports.