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Venezuela's foreign minister is calling new US financial sanctions "the worst aggressions to Venezuela in the last 200 years, maybe". "We must continue to stand with the people of Venezuela -- and with our allies -- to restore democracy and basic human rights". It will prohibit the regime and its state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) from selling new bonds to U.S. citizens or USA financial institutions.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during a White House news conference Friday that the sanctions would "undermine Maduro's ability to pay off political cronies and regime supporters".

"We urge those within the regime, including those who have been sanctioned, to distance themselves from the violence and the dictatorship", Mnuchin told reporters at the White House.

Exceptions will be made for certain transactions between the U.S. and Venezuela, including petroleum exports and imports involving Citgo, PDVSA's American unit, as well as financing for humanitarian efforts, Mnuchin said. "His officials are now resorting to opaque financing schemes and liquidating the country's assets at fire sale prices". Here's a look at why the USA chose to levy the penalties, which dramatically escalate tensions with the South American nation, and how likely they are to hurt Venezuela's economy and loosen President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power.

The White House said the measures "are carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule".

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Senior Trump administration officials said they wanted to escalate pressure on Maduro but exempted the oil industry, including Venezuelan-owned Citgo in the United States.

While the executive order protects holders of many existing Venezuelan government and PDVSA bonds, it will make the refinancing of PDVSA's hefty debt burden hard and could further push the country toward financing from Russian Federation and China.

During a Latin America tour this month, Mr Pence downplayed Mr Trump's recent talk of a "military option" for Venezuela while repeatedly raising the spectre of sanctions. "We try to integrate all elements together". "And no military actions are anticipated in the near future". Maduro has rallied military forces and civilians to protect the country.

The Trump administration has actively campaigned to isolate Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and the ruling Socialist Party (PSUV). Much of that debt is held by high-level Venezuelan government leaders, who will now be forced to turn to other so-called secondary markets (say, in China or Russia) to sell. Until now, the United States has taken care to target individuals within Venezuela's evolving dictatorship.