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Trump orders total freeze on all Venezuelan government assets

President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on August 2 (Leah Millis, Reuters, at left). Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro delivers a speech in Caracas on July 28 (Federico Parra, AFP).

US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered a freeze on all Venezuelan government assets in the United States in a move that also threatens to sanction any entity choosing to do business with the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.

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Trump took the step "in light of the continued usurpation of power by Nicolas Maduro and persons affiliated with him, as well as human rights abuses", according to the order, which affects "all property and interests in property of the Government of Venezuela that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person".

The measure also bars transactions with any Venezuelan authorities whose assets are blocked.

It prohibits "the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order" as well as "the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person".

US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned foreign governments and companies on Tuesday that they could face American retaliation if they continue to do business with Maduro’s administration.

”We are sending a signal to third parties that want to do business with the Maduro regime: Proceed with extreme caution.”

Bolton's comments came after the White House froze all Venezuelan government assets in the United Sates, putting the country on a list of US adversaries that includes Cuba, North Korea, Syria and Iran.

"Now, Venezuela is part of this very exclusive club of [rogue] states," Bolton said at a conference in Peru of more than 50 nations aligned against Maduro. The meeting had been convened by the Lima Group, which includes a dozen Latin American countries and Canada and is helping to mediate the crisis.

“The time to act is now. The United States is acting assertively to cut off Maduro financially, and accelerate a peaceful democratic transition,” Bolton said.

Bolton also singled out Russia for its continuing support of the ruling regime. "We say again to Russia, and especially to those who control its finances: “Do not double down on a bad bet!”

Vice Minister of International Communication William Castillo on Tuesday blasted the White House's announcement, accusing the Trump administration of "gangsterism".

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president earlier this year in a bid to oust Maduro that was backed by the United States and dozens of other countries.

Exclusive: FRANCE 24 talks to Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido

But Guaido's efforts have stalled despite the international support and widespread discontent with Maduro, who has been able to cling to power with the backing of the country's security forces.

The oil-rich, cash-poor country has been in a deep recession for five years. Shortages of food and medicine are frequent, and public services are progressively failing.

Around a quarter of Venezuela's 30-million-strong population is in need of aid, according to the United Nations, while 3.3 million people have left the country since the start of 2016.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)

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