The US is preparing to hit Venezuela with new sanctions after election

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials say the Trump administration is preparing to levy new sanctions on Venezuela, following through on threats to impose fresh penalties if the country went through with a controversial weekend election.

The officials say the new sanctions could be imposed as early as Monday and will likely target Venezuela’s oil sector, including possibly its state owned petroleum company.

One official said an announcement was imminent. The officials were not authorised to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The administration warned Venezuela last week that new sanctions would be coming if President Nicolas Maduro went ahead with Sunday’s election for a constituent assembly. The assembly will draw up a new constitution that many believe is aimed only at securing Maduro’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

“All options are being discussed and debated, and we can promise that whatever actions we choose to take after July 30 will be, again, strong, swift, and deliberate,” a senior White House official told reporters two weeks ago, reiterating that “all options are on the table” when asked if Venezuela’s oil sector was under consideration for sanctions.

US legislators who have voiced support for sanctions on Venezuela’s oil sector have said it would help further isolate the Maduro government.

“I don’t think we should but oil from Maduro,” Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said earlier this month. “We shouldn’t buy oil from the thugs around the world, and that sends a strong signal.”

Venezuela draws some 95% of its export revenue from oil, and some have warned that sanctions targeting the industry could worsen the hardship people in the country already face.

Others have suggested that unilateral sanctions targeting the Venezuelan government could strengthen the hand of embattled President Nicolas Maduro, bolstering his claims of US interference and allowing him to seize on domestic resentment.

Reporting for the AP by Matthew Lee and Catherine Lucey.

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