Pence announces sanctions on Venezuela oil vessels, Cuba shippers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Vice President Mike Pence (File photo)

The United States announces sanctions on 34 vessels of Venezuela's state oil company and two companies that ship crude to Cuba.

The announcement by US Vice President Mike Pence came on Friday as Washington is working to increase pressure on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and enticing Venezuelan officials to defect to an opposition figure.

Speaking in a speech at Rice University in Houston, Pence said, "Those looking on should know this: All options are on the table. And Nicolas Maduro would do well not to test the resolve of the United States of America."

"The United States will continue to exert all diplomatic and economic pressure to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy," he added.

The 34 vessels sanctioned by the Treasury Department are owned or operated by Venezuelan state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A, or PDVSA.

The two companies are linked to the Despina Andrianna , a tanker the US sanctioned too for shipping crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba. One of the two companies is based in Greece and the other is in Liberia.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, "The United States remains committed to a transition to democracy in Venezuela and to holding the Cuban regime accountable for its direct involvement in Venezuela's demise."

“Treasury is taking action against vessels and entities transporting oil, providing a lifeline to keep the illegitimate Maduro regime afloat,” added Mnuchin.

Venezuela has been in political chaos since opposition figure Juan Guaido declared himself “interim president” late in January. Guaido has received backing and encouragement from the US government along the way.

Washington has been pressuring other countries into following suit and has not ruled out using the military option to oust the government of Maduro.

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