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US readies additional Venezuela sanctions: administration official

Washington — The Trump administration, which sanctioned Venezuela state-owned oil company PDVSA on Monday, is prepared to impose additional sanctions if President Nicolas Maduro does not step down, a senior administration official said Thursday.

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The official declined to identify potential sanctions, such as secondary sanctions targeting foreign buyers of Venezuelan crude, the administration may impose.

"We have a great deal of tools at our disposal that we are ready to use," the official said during a call with reporters.

The US recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's legitimate president.

Under the sanctions announced Monday, payments for US imports of Venezuelan crude will need to be placed into blocked accounts in the US, a condition which would essentially force a Maduro-backed PDVSA to ship crude to the US for free. The sanctions are expected to stop Venezuelan exports to the US while Maduro remains in power.

PDVSA-owned Citgo assets in the US, which include refineries in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois and three pipeline systems, will be allowed to continue to operate, at least for three months, although revenues are also required to be held in blocked accounts in the US.

"Our goal is to ensure that Citgo remains viable," the administration official said Thursday. "But, to make sure that Maduro and his cronies are no longer able to loot Citgo in the way that they've been looting it for years." -- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Derek Sands, newsdesk@spglobal.com