US sanctions freeze billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, says Venezuelan minister

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CARACAS – Venezuela has lost access to its billion-dollar US assets in energy and tourism companies, according to Sputnik Félix Plasencia, Maduro’s foreign minister.

Since the beginning of the year, the United States has increased its political and economic pressure against Venezuela. Amid this context, assets of Venezuelan companies were frozen in the US.

“Billions of dollars [our] people have been affected by the unilateral coercive measures taken by the US government, violating international law and trying to enforce unilateral decisions in a free and sovereign country,” Commerce Minister Felix Plasencia said.

According to the Venezuelan authority, the asset freeze, provided for by sanctions established last August, would be a way for the US to “take” Venezuela’s assets.

“We have been affected by the inability to move our assets … We have assets, such as a US frozen oil company, which was taken from us,” Plasencia added.

In this way, US sanctions would be targeting the most important sector of the Venezuelan economy, oil exploration and trade, as well as tourism.

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In January, Texas-based Venezuelan company Citgo was subject to sanctions that demanded a reduction in its relations with PDVSA, the flagship of hydrocarbon exploration in the South American country.

In response, President Nicolás Maduro accused the US of trying to appropriate the company.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s state-owned oil company PDVSA has authorized increased exports to Cuba despite sanctions imposed by the United States months ago.

In an effort to prevent oil from entering Cuba, the United States imposed new sanctions on four companies and ships that transport oil to the island.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said his country will continue to work with Cuba. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, in turn, said Washington is adopting a “brutal and genocidal” policy by tightening the blockade on the island and obstructing its oil imports.

This week, two ships belonging to PDVSA set sail for Cuba. Nine other ships await loading of crude and fuel oil to make inquiries to the island, reported the news agency.

PDVSA’s exports to Cuba in September averaged 119,000 barrels per day, a significant increase from the 70,000 barrels registered in August.

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