The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Venezuela on Monday as Vice President Mike Pence said the administration was ready to do “much, much more” to help topple the Maduro regime.
The measures include personal sanctions on three Venezuelan officials as well as 20 companies with ties to the Maduro regime’s alleged drug trafficking operations.
In his speech in front of the Organization of American States in Washington, Pence also urged other nations to take a tougher stance against a country controlled by a totalitarian regime linked to Raúl Castro’s Cuba.
“We believe it is time to do more, much more,” Pence said in an address to the OAS in Washington. “Every free nation gathered here must take stronger action to stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors.”
Pence also dismissed the country’s upcoming presidential elections, which Maduro is widely expected to “win,” having banned most opposition candidates from running and relying on his regime’s sophisticated use of voter fraud systems. Most opposition parties have urged their supporters not to participate.
“There will be no real election in Venezuela on May 20, and the world knows it,” Pence said.
So far, the White House has imposed a range of sanctions on the Maduro regime that include a ban on Americans from dealing with Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) or buying the country’s oil-backed cryptocurrency, as well as personal sanctions targeting high ranking government officials including Maduro himself.
Yet, as noted by Reuters, the “individuals sanctioned on Monday are fairly low-profile and the move is unlikely to create major economic hardship.”
Before his departure in February, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated that the Trump administration was considering blocking all sales of Venezuelan oil, a move that might present the final blow to both Maduro and the country’s economy.
Many Latin American governments also fear that additional sanctions would worsen the country’s unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which has left millions of people in abject poverty and caused a migration exodus to neighboring countries such as Colombia and Brazil.
The Maduro regime has decried sanctions as part of an “economic war” against his regime led by the United States, and recently described sanctions banning Americans from investing in his Petro cryptocurrency as a “crime against humanity.”
“The [sanctions] are new imperial aggression aimed at financial persecution and economic boycott as well as pushing our economy into chaos and destroying the will of our people to live in freedom, peace, and hope,” the Venezuelan foreign ministry said in March.